The role of IT in business has evolved in recent years. It isn’t just about making sure devices work and connect to back-end resources anymore. No longer is it sufficient just to “keep the lights on.” Now IT must drive innovation and differentiation and must do so quickly. With new, more demanding requirements for the pace of the IT department, any organization that wants to get an edge on the competition should consider speed a top priority.
The challenge is growing. Moore’s Law says computing power tends to double every two years. Accenture reports that 86 percent of business executives anticipate the pace of technology change will increase rapidly or at an unprecedented rate during the next three years.
IT staffs’ responsibilities have increased as well. It’s difficult for them to keep up without supportive technology. It’s not just that requests to the IT department often take too long to fulfill, that’s bad enough. Worse still is business can grind to a halt, wasting yet more valuable resources, when an employee continually has to check when (or even if) someone can resolve his issue.
And users no longer have any patience for slow, unresponsive IT. When an employee puts in a trouble ticket, he shouldn’t have to wonder whether a human ever will lay eyes on it. And he won’t wait around quietly if the request falls into a black hole. Frustrated managers simply aren’t willing to accept delays in device rollouts or software patches and updates. Employees won’t tolerate network administration that delivers slow or unreliable connections.
To meet these increased demands, SMBs need an efficient IT team equipped with reliable and streamlined technology.
Unfortunately, IT efficiency just isn’t a primary focus for many small businesses. In fact, technology can become a limiting factor for SMBs, who may have small, overworked IT teams that may not have training in all the areas that demand attention. So where can small businesses get the expert, effective IT staff they need to speed up the pace of IT?
Streaming IT is a great option, because a small business can have its entire IT platform delivered as a service. Think of it sort of like Netflix for IT. Included is your hardware and software (yes even Microsoft Word & Excel), plus services such as help desk and monitoring for performance. Consider other available options as well, such as cloud delivery of individual IT services, including software, platform and infrastructure as a service.
The cloud’s benefits are proven: It delivers the flexibility to choose the services you need and the scalability to increase or decrease them rapidly to meet your business’ needs. It provides the agility to deploy hardware and software almost instantly. It is a better alternative than requiring IT staff to spend weeks or months studying a problem and potential solutions, ordering hardware, then testing and configuring it before full deployment – what a headache!
The cloud also can help cut costs. Because streaming IT gives small firms access to the latest hardware and software, they aren’t stuck with large capital investments in infrastructure that quickly can become outdated. A recent survey by Trend Micro found that 14 percent of SMBs that adopted the cloud saw a reduction of 20 percent or more in their IT expenses.
Streaming IT also provides immediately responsive customer service to address problems quickly, often before users even discover an issue. A service provider’s IT experts make sure updates and patches are administered in a timely fashion.
And perhaps most importantly, the cloud removes the heavy burden of implementing and maintaining technology solutions, freeing up IT staff to focus on the speedy delivery of revenue-driving projects for the business. Trend Micro’s research found that 59 percent of small businesses that had adopted the cloud saw significant productivity benefits. SMBs that maintain on-premises IT operations require staff members to keep upgrading hardware, fixing problems and conducting time-consuming tasks such as backup and recovery. These are all tasks that shift focus away from core business functions and profitability.
Small businesses find streaming IT to be a complete, end-to-end solution, delivering virtual hardware and software and allowing them to access their IT from anywhere. The comprehensive slate of IT services are of the same caliber as large companies, but delivered as a service to firms that can’t afford in-house staff of the same size, experience and expertise.
Communication is essential to improving the IT staff’s pace and performance. Everybody can get on the same page by prioritizing effective communication between a small business’ IT leaders, its executives and its line-of-business managers. IT staff can understand both the business’ and users’ needs and challenges, such as regulatory compliance, while informing management of the opportunities and limitations presented by technology.
Here are several strategies to improve the communication between IT and lines of business:
Self-assessment: When the IT staff assesses its performance and explains its challenges, the entire organization gains a greater understanding of expectations, encouraging conversation about how IT may be able to improve its performance to meet them.
Regular check-ins: Scheduling quick, recurring discussions between IT and business leaders allows small firms to improve decision-making and obtain better buy-in from their employees.
Surveys: Get employee feedback about their level of satisfaction when receiving IT services. This will provide IT staff with a greater understanding of the needs they must meet and the areas where they should focus their efforts to improve the pace of delivery.
Group meetings: Sit down with IT staff and users from across the organization to review risks and prioritize initiatives, both of which are essential considerations for improving the pace of IT. These meetings help executives see the big picture and develop a shared vision of what is expected of IT. Establishing meaningful, transparent metrics will show the connection between IT and business priorities.
IT liaison: Appoint one person as the point of contact between IT staff and the rest of the business. The objective liaison can be in charge of regularly assessing the pace of department performance, helping ease the burden on management and improving overall communication.
Ultimately, users aren’t especially worried about how IT gets done – just that it gets done quickly and effectively. By deploying services such as streaming IT and working to improve communication, small businesses can increase the pace of IT performance and allow IT staff to focus on the essential operations that drive innovation.
flickr photo by Vitor Conti shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license
flickr photo by Quijonido shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license
flickr photo by Lena shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license