IT departments are no strangers to disruption. Over the past few decades, technology teams have had to deal with the transition away from mainframes, the shift to the client/server paradigm and the arrival of the Internet.
Today, it’s the era of cloud, mobile devices, big data and automation. Along the way, IT leaders have made their way into the c-suite, as businesses recognize the increasingly important role technology plays in bringing users the services they need. The question now becomes: how can IT personnel keep pace with accelerating technological advancement while maintaining core operations?
What the Business Expects from IT
Not surprisingly, all this change is taxing IT departments. As they focus on the traditional role of “keeping the lights on,” IT leaders are also expected to deliver on cutting-edge, customer-driven applications, notes Salesforce in its 2016 State of IT report. In fact, 68 percent of IT teams say they will spend more than in previous years on mobile apps, cloud migration and cyber security–incident response over the next two years. At the same time, 63 percent plan to increase spending in customer-facing apps.
Adding to the stress on IT departments, a legacy architecture won’t fly when it comes to digital transformation, according to McKinsey. IT needs to build new, high-speed systems and databases that support agile development.
The desire for IT to drive innovation is the impetus for leaders to rethink the organization of their IT departments. Consequently, 60 percent of enterprises have now hired chief digital officers (CDOs) to help them cope. CDOs typically have a marketing background, knowledge of consumers and a strong focus on digital trends, which is helpful in light of the increased emphasis on the customer and digital transformation, the State of IT report notes.
Organizations Must Invest in Training
The report finds one of the biggest pain points IT leaders face is wide skill gaps in data engineering, IT security and application development.
By the end of 2017, demand for mobile app development services will grow at least five times as fast as internal IT can deliver them, according to Gartner. That’s because there is a well-documented shortage of developers with core mobile coding and software development skills. This shortage isn’t expected to let up anytime soon.
Companies that want to stay at the forefront of their industry have chosen to invest in training for their technical staff (96 percent), while 19 percent of “underperformers” are aware there’s a skills gap but aren’t doing anything to address it, the report states. Training staff is critical to keeping their skills current and helping to alleviate the IT shortage.
Of course, not all companies can or will increase IT budgets. Some 56 percent of North American IT pros reported only a slight rise in their 2016 budgets, and almost 60 percent said they didn’t expect their IT staff to increase, according to Spicework’s 2016 State of IT report. As a result, they will need to do more with less.
Implementing automated systems to tackle repetitive tasks will free up IT to spend time on managing infrastructure and business-critical operations. Automating such tasks is one of the strategic ways leading digital companies are able to manage several initiatives in tandem, McKinsey points out.
Because of the significant implication digital transformation has on the entire business, it would be a mistake to make it the sole responsibility of IT, writes Daniel Newman in Forbes. The CIO, CDO and other IT leaders set the pace for change, but every department must play a role.
Collaboration Can Help Relieve the Pressure
Keeping the lines of communication open is the ideal approach in most scenarios, and it’s no different in IT. Collaboration between IT and the lines of business is paramount to effecting change.
Companies with successful digital transformation projects are the ones that build cross-functional teams that bring together key people from all aspects of the business. They also have visible CEO support with decision-making power, and a clear mandate on what needs to get done, observes McKinsey. This will help ensure each initiative is aligned with the broad business strategy, the firm says. Also important is a dedicated budget and resources. Engaging with top executives and officials from various business units also builds goodwill when IT looks to get buy-in for new systems.
Powerful Partnerships and Platforms
The companies that are successfully transforming themselves are the ones that recognize the value of multiple partners and platforms. Capgemini Consulting notes that this can be achieved by continuing business as usual while adding a new platform model on top. By having MSPs manage the day-to-day aspects of the infrastructure, IT can be freed to strategize and help their companies deploy new platform opportunities, and thus, be on the cutting edge of innovation.
For IT to create value in the digital age, staff must be open to rethinking their roles and embracing emerging technologies. Those who are willing to increase their skill sets in areas like mobile and cloud will help their organizations become more innovative and more agile, more quickly.