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Redefining the Role (and Value) of IT in Modern Businesses

As business and market dynamics continuously evolve, it’s putting new pressure on the IT professional’s role and perceived value.

In recent years, the IT professional’s role has shifted more abruptly than their business counterparts. According to the annual Harvey Nash/KPMG CIO Survey for 2018, “CIOs rate themselves and their departments strongly on traditional IT competencies, but recognize there is more work to do in applying this in the digital context.”

Once looked upon as evangelists or change-setters, IT is now often viewed as the gatekeepers, or even worse the “blockers” for business groups. The Harvey Nash Survey reported 55% of organizations rate their IT/business alignment ‘moderate’ or worse.

How did we get to this point? What were the driving factors to create a negative view on IT’s role in many companies?

There are hundreds of reasons why perception and outlook may have changed for IT individuals or the IT role in an organization. Over the past 20 years working in the technology sector and partnering with IT organizations to implement new technology, I’ve watched this transformation happen before my eyes. And I’ve recognized patterns across industries of the drivers that have led to the diminished role or value of IT. Let’s dive into my top three:

Driver 1: The Capital Effort

As an IT professional we love the challenge of the new project (or technology). There is something in our DNA; something special deep down that says: “Man, I love the challenge of something new …”. After 2+ years, and thousands of project resource hours a corporate-wide project takes on a life of its own. Your new project initiative has consumed the organizations capital; no new projects or initiatives to be started.

What could be worse than that? As the project begins to wind down, nearing the defined Go-Live date, you (as the IT professional) are being pressed to stay heavily involved as part of hyper-care / support. With no new project, or advancement on the current project, the IT professional is boxed. Career growth, advancement and professional learnings are halted; all while your organization’s main capital spend is allocated still to just one project (or program).

Driver 2: Agility vs. Demand

How agile is your IT organization? Are you able to adapt to consumer / market demands fast enough to stay ahead of your competitors? Are your IT processes inhibiting your organization’s ability to meet demand?

In the past many IT departments defined their processes (ex. JADD vs. Waterfall) based on two factors: the compliance and regulations in your industry, and “people”. The “people” can be defined as the interpreters of the compliance & regulatory needs; and those who need to implement and execute against them.

Today, an organization’s processes and agility to meet the market demand are also tied to the technology being utilized. Modern technology should adhere to the compliance and regulatory standards in your defined industry, while providing the agility and speed to meet market demand. Your technology should never be your barrier to speed!

Driver 3: The Demand for Data Accuracy

I remember one of my first meetings as a young IT professional, where a business leader said: “The application you are building is only as good as the data we enter into it.” At the time I think everyone in the room responded with nodding heads or a softly spoken “yes”. And at the time I was naïve to realize what he was really referring to.

What the business leader really wanted was to enter data into an application, where the application provided security & validation to ensure its integrity, all while being able to report (or export) the date captured as needed.

The application should never inhibit a user interaction(s). The application should promote ease of interaction, strong, stable and re-usable data and ability to aggregate for outlook and reporting.

A lot of what I am referencing is related to perception. And perception can be changed.

Here are three ways IT can expand its role as a value-added innovator.

Change Opportunity 1: Know Your Domain

Common sentiment is that your current role requires that you understand the nuances of your company and industry’s IT needs. But that doesn’t mean that you don’t need to keep pace with the technology landscape, new trends and solution offerings. Socialization of technology through the internet, along with related conferences and trainings, need to be part of your continued growth and development. For example, it’s not uncommon for today’s IT professional to be a subject matter expert in more than one technology platform (ex. Java & Force.com).

Have you, as an IT Professional, ever walked into a room or meeting and not understood why you were there or what was being discussed? Remember IT represents two words, Information and Technology, and they are both valued. Having the information to support your technology is probably a given in your job description. But to truly have that IT factor, you need to understand your business, the business users (your customers) and what is keeping them up at night. And only then can you find the best technical solution to support those business needs.

Knowledge is power. And with great power comes not just great responsibility but the humility to know that you need to keep re-learning your domain. You are never done learning, whether it be your customer’s (ex. business, HR, external user) business processes, or the technology platforms that services their needs. Be evangelistic – go up and above to know more about what your business users/customers do on a daily basis.

If you are the lead IT programmer for HR systems at your company, know the technology landscape and what do you have vs. the competition. Additionally, attend the user conferences to know what topics are driving success in the business space, emerging trends and best practices.

Change Opportunity 2: Keep Up with Trending Technology

Who hasn’t heard this line: “I needed this yesterday!” As your business changes, so does the need for your technology. Fortunately adding, changing or upgrading modern day technology with speed is easier today than in years past. Aside from the technology advancements, the means to implement have advanced to more agile approaches.

Beyond knowing your current application and the related competition, I would recommend going one step further and knowing the disruptive technology adjacent to your business. As an example – Blockchain is thought to be only for crypto currency. Blockchain has expanded the way many, such as travel agents, have thought about bringing predictive analysis to the consumer forefront. Be familiar with these technologies, and know what it can do and whether or not it can become disruptive in your domain.

Change Opportunity 3: Step Up Within Your Role

This doesn’t mean try to get an inflated job title. What I am referring to is knowing your domain and technology. You should never say, “I don’t know”. The appropriate answer in that situation is “I will find out for you”. Your job is not just to configure or code an application; it is to be a trusted advisor for your peers and business users/customers.

Don’t ever settle for the participation trophy when you can win the race! Contact me to discuss how strategic technology initiatives can accelerate your career.

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About Patrick Goldate

As senior director of solution architecture, Patrick is responsible for the development of technology solutions, mapping these solutions to customers’ systems and business requirements to support growth, and overall Veeva customer success. Since 2000, Patrick has provided strategic architecture guidance and implementation services to customers for cloud-based enterprise applications and platforms. Patrick joined Veeva in 2010 as part of Veeva’s professional services organization.

Prior, Patrick worked with Fujitsu Consulting, where he managed and lead implementations to support customers’ needs in CRM, multichannel marketing, financial management, data warehouse design, and enterprise reporting. Before working at Fujitsu Consulting, Patrick worked at CIT and PDI, Inc.