Seven Guidelines for Transforming Your IT Department in 2020
At the dawn of 2020, it’s clear that we are living in very interesting times as technology acceleration is providing a host of growth opportunities for modern enterprises. Companies can nowadays leverage ICT technology to create and sustain competitive advantages that set them apart from their competitors. At the same time, the digital transformation of business processes is at the very top of the strategic agendas of most organizations. In this context, the IT Department of any enterprise can become a catalyst for competitiveness and growth. Enterprises must make sure that their IT Department is properly organized for maximum productivity and in a way that serves the business objectives of the organization. In most cases, there is ample room for improving the operation of the IT Department. To this end, companies have better consider the latest IT trends and organizational paradigms. Here follow some concrete guidelines for steering the activities of the IT department in the right direction.
In today’s competitive and rapidly environment, organizations must be flexible in incorporating and implementing changes in business operations. Such changes are usually instigated in response to external triggers, such as market dynamics, customer feedback, and competitors’ activities. Thus, IT should be also flexible to keep up with rapidly changing business operations. In practical terms, the IT Department should adhere to agile processes for developing, deploying and operating software systems and services. It should embrace DevOps (Development and Operations) principles leveraging on CI (Continuous Integration) and CD (Continuous Delivery) methodologies and tools. Smaller organizations such as startups must also embrace agility based on proven methods like the “Lean Startup” methodologies that can help them validate business assumptions and continually learn from customer feedback, till they find a viable route to market for their products and services.
Once upon a time, the IT Department was focused on administrative tasks such as ensuring the graceful operation of data centers and providing IT services to end-users. In recent years, this has changed: IT is no longer an auxiliary task, but rather a source of innovation. Nowadays IT departments are expected to act as innovation hubs that generate, evaluate and execute new IT-driven ideas for new business processes, as well as novel products and services. Therefore, they should gradually embrace innovation management processes, such as business modeling, business planning, design thinking for innovation, as well as execution of innovative projects.
Over the years, there has been a rapid transformation of the IT skills demanded from employees like IT administrators, programmers and IT system architects. Furthermore, there is a surge of demand for new skills in areas like data science, Big Data, the Internet of Things and Artificial Intelligence. The latter skills are key prerequisites for empowering innovation management and agile systems’ development capabilities. Therefore, enterprises should invest in attracting talent in their IT Departments, towards closing the talent gap in contemporary skills. Likewise, they should work with their Human Resources Department in order to establish proper reskilling and upskilling processes for existing employees. Developing talent in-house is equally and sometimes more important than attracting talent from outside.
Cloud computing has been around for over a decade now. However, there are still many enterprises that are struggling with on-premise infrastructures and applications. Modern IT Departments must leverage the benefits of the cloud as much as possible. They can take advantage of the capacity, elasticity and pay-as-you-go nature of cloud services. This can boost their flexibility while shortening their innovation cycles. Moreover, companies can nowadays find in the cloud the tools needed for their digital transformation in the data modernization and Artificial Intelligence (AI) era, such as MLaaS (Machine Learning as a Service) tools.
Data is the oil of the fourth industrial revolution and IT enterprises cannot afford to ignore the importance of data assets. As a result, IT Departments should invest in organizing data assets and in implementing data-driven processes based on Big Data Analytics and AI. Most importantly IT Departments should lead the establishment of a data-driven culture across the entire organization. This culture can lead to a proliferation of activities that analyze datasets as a means of automating processes and accelerating knowledge acquisition within the organization.
In the coming decade organizations will adopt and fully leverage AI technologies and possibilities for growth and new revenue streams. Therefore, there will be a need for IT Departments that excel in the use of AI processes and tools. Organizations able to take advantage of machine learning, robotics and smart cyber-physical systems like drones and automated guided vehicles, could gain a competitive advantage in their sectors. The IT Department of an enterprise should be prepared to play a leading role in these processes.
In modern enterprises, the IT Department has increasingly a strategic rather than an auxiliary role. It is gradually becoming a leadership department that participates in corporate decision making, while at the same time shaping new projects and initiatives. Likewise, the CIO (Chief Information Officer) is having a more active and significant role in corporate decisions. CIOs set agendas and lead decisions associated with the digital transformation of an enterprise. Furthermore, their positioning on the corporate ladder tends to be indicative of whether an organization considers IT important or not. Beyond CIOs, IT directors must undertake more proactive roles, through identifying and designing innovative IT-based projects that will enable organizations to reinvent themselves and remain competitive.
With these thoughts about the future of your IT Department, we would like to wish you all the best for a healthy, happy and prosperous 2020, with many successes in your IT projects.
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