How to make IT your competitive advantage (again!)?

IT departments are a ubiquitous part of any organization. It could be a team of a couple of members or much more in size or it could be outsourced to a vendor. You can be sure though that every organization needs one. However not every IT department is run in the same way. There are teams that help a business grow, some just help to keep the lights on and some which are constantly fire-fighting. The sad part in the last two cases is neither the IT nor the business realize the full potential of IT.

Let’s see how one can separate IT departments based on how they function. This should help you understand where your IT department stands and how you can improve it to grow your business.

Basic IT:

This is the most common setup – you have a few computers or laptops, wired network and/or WiFi, couple of printers. On the systems side, you may see the Microsoft suite of applications, email and some special applications based on the nature of your business. In addition, you may have department specific software like CRM, Finance or an integrated suite like an ERP.

The interesting part of all of this is, this is an IT department which was the competitive advantage about 15 years ago. There may have been upgrades to the systems and hardware but essentially not much has changed in the basic IT. At best this IT helps to run the organization at worst it’s always fire-fighting.

In none of the cases though, it will help the organization grow. To take that step you need to transition to the ‘Efficient IT’.

Efficient IT:

This is when IT processes and systems are designed and configured to help you work efficiently. There is no re-keying of data/duplication of effort, systems talk with each other and teams are trained to use features designed to improve efficiency. In this setup, you’d most likely have a tighter knit between IT and the business with communications between them starting at the management level and percolating right upto the user level.

IT will have moved from fire-fighting to putting more effort in root cause analysis and fixing them. The focus is on making the existing systems work efficiently and getting more from them.

This stage, good as it seems, however, is not enough to give you a competitive advantage. To realize the full benefits IT can bring you, you need to move your IT to the ‘Competitive Edge IT’

Competitive-Edge IT (think Digital Transformation)

One may ask why Efficient IT is not good enough. If its working and working well, why change? And the answer is the number of changes the tech scene has seen in the last decade. IT, when first implemented in organizations, served as their competitive edge. This is no longer the case – IT is now hygiene. It is unrealistic to expect the same structure put in place several years ago, to give you a competitive edge today. And the possibilities presented by the new developments are staggering. It is highly likely that your competition has started using or planning to use these developments to gain an edge.

A key thing here is to look beyond IT and at technology as a whole. This is about harnessing the power of technologies like RPA (Robotic process automation), AI (artificial intelligence), IoT (internet of things) and others for your business growth.

It is, understandably, daunting to see these tech terms and acronyms. The good news is you don’t need to understand them. What’s important is to keep an open mind and evaluate if any of these can help grow your business.

 

Are you ready to take your IT to the next level? Make IT your competitive edge?

We can help. Contact us on hello@techrelief.co.uk

What have your experiences been with IT / Digital / Technology? I’d love to hear.

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