By Jessica Carroll
“Service to the business,” is how IT is often described. For the last 25 years or so, this is the mantle technologists have proudly worn. We have been people supporters, system feature order takers, and brilliant all-around problem solvers. But, to the business, this cloak is threadbare. If you are scratching your head as to why the business isn’t pulling your team into the conversation, or hires their own technology vendors, it’s time to take a look in the mirror and be honest with the ensemble staring back at you.
Corporate IT must become the business enabler and that means a shift in perspective and approach. Thinking strategically and focusing on organizational priorities is step one. Step two is embracing today’s evolving technology landscape (think of cloud, mobile, social, and big data). Step three is fostering the above in collaboration with the business. IT leaders must get the IT team to think fresh and work with the business to take advantage of these change agents.
At the USGA we’ve started down the IT transformation path. One of our most impactful moves has been data center management. Highly available systems and best-in-class infrastructure require expense and staffing that our small team can’t justify. We turned to the private cloud. Our cloud environment gives us scalability in infrastructure, strength in service, and a secure platform. Note that use of the cloud doesn’t negate IT responsibility; running the applications and managing the data is paramount, but there’s nothing wrong with getting outside help to do so. In our case, the network team’s focus is now on new technologies, instead of simply server upgrades.
As a nonprofit organization, our focus is not on technology or sales. It is on serving the game of golf and the growing universe of people who play the game or want to learn more about it. The goal is for IT to be foundational in empowering the USGA, just like your IT organization can empower your business.
Adopting current technology smartly at your organization is only one step. Reshaping IT roles and responsibilities is key, even if uncomfortable. When we adopted cloud services at the USGA, our network team didn’t evaporate, their role broadened. Along with traditional day-to-day administration, they became the cloud vendor relationship manager; they serve as the business’ infrastructure and performance advocates.
Adding new roles, such as project managers and business analysts to our IT team has also been elemental in shifting from service provider to business enabler. These team members are the new direct link to the business; they understand the customer’s point of view and bridge business and technology development. Folding in new skill-sets has given existing staff different layers of expertise and demonstrated new potential career paths.
IT is at a pivotal point in its history. We can either hold onto our worn old favorite coat, or jump at the chance to be the organization’s success driver. As an IT leader, are you ready for a new set of clothes?