Does IT Matter? Businesses are Betting on It

Does IT Matter? Businesses are Betting on It

One of CompTIA’s themes in 2016 has been the business relevance of IT. Companies are transforming into digital organizations, and the increased reliance on technology as a strategic tool is elevating IT’s role and driving a need for new skills. As this transformation occurs, traditional business objectives are being cast in a new light as they incorporate new tech trends.

For example, consider one of the primary goals for most businesses: reducing costs. Given IT's traditional reputation as a cost center, it is no surprise that cost savings are usually front and center in technology discussions. In today’s environment, digital organizations are coming to understand that technology budgets will likely rise as IT becomes more of a strategic endeavor. Higher costs are being justified as they lead to new benefits such as improved flexibility or expanded business opportunities. Still, whenever there is a real chance to reduce costs (and subsequently increase profit), businesses will make that a priority.

Enter cloud computing. In the early days of cloud adoption, firms were drawn in by the promise that cloud systems being managed by a third party could reduce capital expenditures and reduce ongoing costs associated with server maintenance. Initial migrations struggled to realize this promise. Highly stable workloads did not experience the same benefits in the cloud as dynamic workloads, and there were hidden costs (such as network upgrades) that offset the savings gained from using cloud platforms. However, greater maturity and experience is helping companies find ways for cloud to be cost-effective. In the long run, achieving the right balance between cloud systems and on-premise systems based on requirements will lead to a more economical IT architecture.

As another example, companies are searching for ways to make their employees more productive. In the face of resource constraints, many businesses adopt a familiar mantra: do more with less. This carries an unfortunate connotation for the workforce, but even a less drastic version (i.e. do more with the same amount) brings a lot of pressure to existing employees. Companies may not be able to bring on additional workers but may still have goals for growth that need to be achieved with the people on hand. Tools that increase productivity without risking burnout are especially desirable. For companies with the ability to bring on new headcount, the benefits of a distributed workforce can only be realized with the technology to connect people and allow for productivity outside a formal office network.

Here, mobility is the new tool being used to solve the issue. The dawn of the smartphone marked a fascinating point in tech history—for the first time, the best technology is being developed for consumers, partly thanks to higher tech literacy among the masses and partly thanks to advances that redefine the user experience. Many industry observers believed this shift would drive BYOD as the principal method for supplying endpoint devices to users, though the reality is that many companies are finding ways to control device provisioning while managing the risk of rogue devices. Regardless of the model being used, there are many steps involved in actually integrating mobile tools into a daily workflow. From securing the endpoints to developing apps to configuring the backend, mobility strategies go far beyond the distribution of smartphones and tablets.

As IT departments tackle these new problems, they obviously have to grow a diverse set of skills. Foundational areas such as networks and virtualization are still critical, even as large pieces of architecture move to the cloud. Security, a well-established domain within IT, is experiencing drastic change as new models drive new tools and new processes. Along with technical skills, IT pros face a growing need to add business acumen as systems now help drive corporate metrics.

All this is a heavy burden for an IT department, especially a smaller one without the resources to rapidly grow. Partnering with third parties can be a good plan for filling gaps and bringing in specialized knowledge. CompTIA’s Business Model Configurator (currently in early release form) helps match business goals for end users to business models employed by IT solution providers.

In theory, the democratization of technology within business poses a threat to IT as other business units become more able to make their own technology decisions. In practice, business units are showing a strong preference to partner with IT so that everyone brings their unique strengths to the table. By emphasizing knowledge built up over time and stretching skills into new areas, IT can become more relevant than ever before.

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