Between managing assets, staff, budgets and expectations, businesses and IT departments have a lot to tackle on any given day. So, it’s not surprising that despite best intentions, best practices and systems often fall by the wayside.
“The greatest mistake businesses make is that they neglect IT,” says Greg Schulz, senior advisory analyst at technology advisory and consulting firm StorageIO.
But it isn’t just businesses that prevent IT from reaching its full potential.
“One of the greatest mistakes IT departments make is that they neglect themselves,” Schulz continues, noting that often IT is focused on improving the workflow for other departments and not for themselves, which can leave data and practices siloed and inhibit innovation and transparency.
But with a new year ahead, there’s no better time than now to refocus the lens on IT and commit to your business putting its best tech foot forward. Here’s a few places to start:
1. Bridge Barriers Between Business and IT
To start off on the right foot, IT teams and business counterparts cannot live siloed existences; they must understand each other’s needs and capabilities in order to implement the most efficient and cost-effective tools available.
“Business needs to understand IT. But, more important, IT needs to understand the business,” says Schulz. “It’s business that needs to take the lead, grab IT by the shoulders and immerse them into the business so they can learn and understand what it is business is doing, so IT can support the business better.”
For IT teams in particular, this collaboration can help them, among other things, determine the difference between wants and needs, which can inform investment.
“IT often thinks they hear the business say ‘we need,’ when what we often are hearing is ‘we want.’ There’s a big difference: I need — I’ll pay for it; I want — you’ll pay for it,” says Schultz.
A strong relationship between business and IT can help make these discrepancies clearer and help teams forge a cleaner and more direct path forward when it comes to IT investment.
2. Invest in Value, Not Just Technology
Many companies make the mistake of looking at IT as a cost center and not as an innovation center, says Schulz.
“But instead of just seeing the department as overhead, they should instead be investing in IT and in that infrastructure, looking at where they can derive value,” he says.
This means focusing not just on how to get by with the least amount of investment, but how to actually get the most from an investment. Especially for small businesses, it can be tempting to go with the cheapest option when selecting new IT solutions or services. But the least expensive option may not actually offer your business the best bang for its buck.
“There’s often a focus on cost cutting at the expense of waste and rework. But the opposite of cost cutting is not overspending. What the organization really needs, wants and should be doing is focusing on cost removal and maximizing the value per dollar spent,” Schulz says. He notes that often investing in something that costs more on the outset can actually save money in the long run because it will work better and require less maintenance.
3. Encourage a Healthy Cybersecurity Culture
Security is paramount to the survival of any business, especially because breaches can seriously cost companies. The billion-dollar question, then, is what does it take to shore up defenses?
While security software, strategies and next-generation security tools are vital to building strong defenses, what’s paramount is creating a culture where all employees and departments feel responsible for helping to ensure cybersecurity.
“As we move to more software-defined systems, we also begin to see all these software-defined threats. Some of which are technology-based, but most attacks involve some amount of the human element,” says Schulz. “Most attacks involve behavioral engineering — phishing, spoofing or even physically walking into an office.”
The best antidote against these types of attacks is to encourage a strong culture of cybersecurity.
“If you see something, say something,” says Schulz. “That has to be the mantra, not just for physical security, but for cybersecurity within a company as well. People have to feel comfortable participating.”
4. Innovate IT from the Inside Out
Sticking with the same old IT is a recipe for ending up with antiquated and legacy systems. Meanwhile, seeking out emerging tech for no reason other than to stay on the leading edge can be a sure way to end up with unnecessary investment.
While businesses should always be looking to innovate, they need to do so carefully and thoughtfully, taking smaller risks along the way without letting systems run out of control or stagnate.
“Leverage new technologies in new ways, not in old familiar ways. And on the flip side, use old technology in new ways. Start evolving it,” says Schultz. “Learn from the past so you don’t make those same mistakes in the future.”