Why IT managers need to know their business inside out

Steve Evans

Monday 16 March 2015

These days technology is ingrained in every facet of business life, but at many organisations the IT department is a very separate entity. In today’s interconnected office, it is more vital than ever for IT to make its presence known.

Mobile workers, remote workers, collaboration technologies, cloud computing, multi-national corporations with offices across Europe… these days businesses are more disparate than ever.

But those aforementioned technologies and factors are both a cause and a solution; they are enabling people to do their jobs away from their desk, with the enterprise social/collaboration tools sitting at the centre, acting as the glue that holds it all together, helping workers communicate more easily with each other.

These tools enable workers to communicate with each other and collaborate on projects together, regardless of where they are located. That’s why analyst company Gartner is predicting big things for the industry: it believes the sales of collaboration and social software hit $1.2 billion (€1bn, £800m) in 2013, a 15 per cent rise on figures from the year before.

All this is pointing towards a more interconnected office, one where people across departments, offices and even time zones can work together. Collaboration is at the heart of today’s businesses and, because of this, workers know more than ever about what’s going on in other departments. Which is how it should be, of course, as that will help with collaboration, driving innovation across the business.

Technology, of course, is the enabler for this kind of interaction. And this is where the IT department can come in. Instead of just being a passive provider of the enabling technology, IT departments are now becoming an active participant in the collaboration taking place between different departments.

There are various reasons why it’s important for IT to take an interest in what’s going on in other departments.

A first is that IT quite simply has to keep up with what technology is being used ‘out there’. Gone are the days when every bit of hardware and software was fully controlled by the IT department. Cloud computing, SaaS, mobile devices and more mean that people are using devices and services that perhaps haven’t been fully vetted by the IT department.

This can cause all sorts of issues, ranging from security to compatibility and access. If certain devices or services are not recognised by the IT department, productivity could be affected as workers will not be able to access the tools and data they need.

Let’s expand on the security issue. With mobile technologies – particularly BYOD, where IT has even less control over the devices that are being used to access vital systems and data – there are new security threats for IT to deal with. If that data is copied to a personal device, there is no telling where it could end up.

Beyond that, there is a risk of unauthorised devices not meeting an organisation’s security policies, increasing the risk of viruses, malware or spyware being downloaded and exposing the corporate network. It is therefore vital that IT is aware of what devices are being used across the organisation, and what they are being used for.

This shouldn’t be so IT can restrict use of these technologies; instead it should mean IT can put the right policies and processes in place so workers can continue to use mobile devices to get their work done, making the whole workforce more productive.

IT isn’t going to stop people using their own devices these days, as consumer technology advances outstrip enterprise advances it’s inevitable that people will bring their own; there is nothing malicious in that behaviour, it is simply workers trying to be more productive.

Knowing what’s going on in other departments also means that IT will be able to advise on the best technology to use. Workers may think they know what’s best, but there is a good chance that IT will be able to suggest a more suitable alternative, and can therefore play an important role in getting executive sign-off for the purchase, if necessary.

There are also other factors to consider, such as software licensing. If IT isn’t on top of what software is being used in other departments, then the whole business could suffer as a result. The subsequent fines can easily run into six figures.

Ultimately, IT managers need to make it their business to know what is going on across other departments. That way, they can ensure IT does the job it’s supposed to do – enabling workers to use the technology they want to get their jobs done. IT should be seen as an enabler, and the best way for it to achieve that is to stay on top of what’s happening across the organisation.