Opinion

Where should the IT strategy sit?

7 min read

24 September 2015

Business owners and managers face a multitude of decisions on a daily basis. One decision which holds, or should hold, high priority is the implementation of technology.

Today, technology’s role within business is as important as the business itself as it should underpin every aspect of operational performance. 

Making the decision on what type of solutions to utilise can be quite daunting. There are many technical and business considerations to take as technology encompasses a wide range of hardware, software and services that keep companies running and enhance operations.

Technology impacts every aspect of a business. From accounting to customer communications to product design and development. The rapid evolution of technology development over the last couple of decades has provided increasingly powerful and less expensive options for companies. Having the right technology in place can truly help businesses stay ahead in a competitive marketplace.

With all of this in mind, businesses need to ensure that they keep up with technology trends, as well as effectively safeguarding what they currently have in place, but where should this responsibility lie? Is it solely the role of the IT department to ensure that all angles of the business are equipped with the latest and greatest kit? 

Or does this responsibility lie within the C-suite, to be discussed at length and decided upon in the boardroom as part of an overall business strategy? And in amongst all of this, it’s important to understand where the IT users themselves fit into the decision making equation.

Senior managers are often faced with the predicament that they don’t necessarily understand IT enough to manage it in detail, but similarly don’t feel that the IT department understands the real business problems that they face.

Therefore, should senior managers be taking a more active leadership role in the technology decision making process and furthermore, the strategy itself?

When adopting large-scale systems into a business, it is important that senior managers realise that this has the potential to not only pose technological challenges, but also create significant business challenges. Therefore, when it comes to decisions around integrating technology into the business, not being involved or taking responsibility could potentially lead to disaster.

Interestingly, 64 per cent of IT Managers consult senior management when making decisions around technology in the workplace, with only a small amount consulting those who will use the technology in the business. This raises the question of how well informed these decisions are by the time they get to senior management. 

This coupled with the fact that a mere eight per cent of IT departments feel that their IT strategy is business critical in supporting overall business success, highlights a worrying prospect considering the incredible impact technology can have on a business and its employees, customers and even suppliers.

Another important observation is that although we talk about where the IT strategy should sit within the business, it’s just as important to consider who is included in the process.

If you’re investing a significant amount of money in the technology your business will use every day, not including those that will be using the technology in the process could prove to be a huge risk.

Consequently, if end-users don’t buy into the technology they are tasked with using to do their job, or worse still, it doesn’t help them to achieve what they need to do, you could be facing a very unproductive workforce.

Not surprisingly the improvement of technology has been recently linked directly to being a poignant factor in increasing the UK’s productivity levels, but how can this be achieved if IT departments aren’t seemingly taking it as seriously as they should be?

The IT department comprises of the right people to make numerous decisions around IT management and implementation.

Decisions such as technology standards, the level of technical expertise the organisation will need, understanding around solutions and the benefits, as well as the standard methodology for implementing new systems. But an IT department should not be left to make choices that determine the impact of IT on a company’s business strategy.

The perfect decision making process would see the strategy sitting with the IT Director and being signed off by the board, with the views of the end user incorporated into the process and ultimately the final sign off.

Senior management would therefore get to influence technology decisions with the business strategy in mind, understand the point of view of the end users, increase engagement and consequently productivity. This process would also support and empower the IT lead.

Businesses are entering the next wave of IT innovation, which involves increased use of the cloud, the adoption of wearables and virtual reality by employees and customers, as well as increased investment in IoT.

All of which bringing with them individual security risks. It’s important to make sure that the right people are involved in the decision making process and at the right level to ensure disaster doesn’t ensue.

Richard Burke is the MD at Intercity Technology. Burke joined Intercity Technology in November 2009 following nine years of working in corporate finance with Ernst and Young, before becoming finance director with UGS. As UK MD, Burke is responsible for the development and implementation of the UK business strategy, driving the business and its growth plans forward.