The magnitude of IT evolution will cause inevitable transformations within the IT department, making it a more strategic business unit. Naturally, as part of this transition, the role of the IT manager will also evolve, carrying greater significance as it will have a direct influence on a company and its success. IT is creating an extensive potential for productivity increases. But the concept of IT is changing. First, it was the introduction of the PC. IT discussions were centered on hardware and entry level productivity tools such as word processors.
The evolution in software application functionality is what is creating the latest need for change, as it is reducing competitor costs. The trend in business is to drive down supplier prices, which means that businesses must deliver increased value for the same cost, reduce their purchase costs or cut expenses in order to lower the cost of the delivered product or service. Establishing how to reduce the supply cost is significantly influenced by the efficiency of the organisation and the effective use of IT is a leading strategy in cost reduction. The bridge between the IT and the optimisation of process will be best understood by a new type of IT manager who will play a significant role in cost reduction through productivity gains.
IT managers will focus on creating efficiency from the effective use of IT. They will have a thorough understanding of the work processes; create flow charts and significant documentation through understanding the interactions that occur within the company. They will do this because it will enable them to determine where productivity increases can be established. Once these processes have been documented, discussed, reviewed and optimised, it will be possible to determine the necessary foundation layers of hardware, the operating systems and application layers that will be required to enhance business efficiency.
IT is a set of layers that encompasses everything from hardware, the desktop and server operating systems right through to the applications which enable customers, employees and stakeholders to interact electronically with the company. Then the function of IT can be broken into two distinct areas. The first area is the foundation components that are supposed to deliver performance, reliability, administration and ongoing maintenance. The second area is the impact the IT has on the efficiency of the company.
For a long time discussions on IT used to begin with the hardware. Whilst it still plays the fundamental role in IT, vendor equipment has become more standardised and more reliable. Developing the hardware requirements should form the last component of the company IT strategy.
The operating system of both desktop and servers is the secondary foundation layer of a company’s IT system. Moves, adds, upgrades and changes are straightforward activities that can be performed by an external team. The same applies to monitoring servers, firewalls and performing backup. Sophisticated enterprise based software can regularly probe systems and provide updates to specialists trained to address problems before they occur.
The application layer is where productivity begins. Applications are installed on the desktop and server operating systems. The applications are the day-to-day tools that the employees and possibly external parties interact with. It is these applications that are supposed to generate efficiency as a result of increases in productivity.
However, these layers in isolation will not create efficiency. The applications will need customisation, employee re-training and a well thought through implementation program in order to generate a return on investment far greater than the cost.
The complete task of creating efficiency is vast. The reason IT managers will outsource the underlying foundation layer management is because building comprehensive IT solutions that enhance productivity is difficult for external providers to achieve. In order to reach a great outcome, considering the extensive depth of the functional knowledge required, the IT manager will need to focus all their attention on the implementation and ongoing organisational management.
Understanding the business process and supporting that process through software applications will become the key to successful IT management. The IT manager will engage stakeholders, thoroughly documenting how the business could best function with the effective implementation of software applications. Their role will involve creating the ultimate outcome where the IT supports the business through the integration of software applications that meet the needs of the business today and support change in the future.
No longer will high quality IT managers of the future be concerned with foundation layer technology but in contrast be valued members of the senior management who support the entrepreneurial vision of the directors and shareholders and deliver outcomes that reduce cost through the use of IT. They will generate cost savings through business efficiency enhancements.♦ End