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The Value of Information Technology as a Business Partner

The Value of Information Technology as a Business Partner

It's undeniable: the way IT fits into business operations is changing. Proving the value of information technology teams as business partners could be the difference between the outsourcing of services and outsourcing of, frankly, everyone.

A recent McKinsey & Company survey, reported by Forbes, showed that many executives take a dim view of their IT operations. Only one-third described their IT teams as very or extremely efficient at a wide range of tasks, and just 35 percent said that IT facilitates market entry.

So how can you go from being Roy Trenneman from "The IT Crowd" to someone who's a visible, difference-making business partner? These tips will get you out from behind the helpdesk and into a business state of mind.

Visibility Starts at the Top

The key ingredient to a favorable view of IT is a visible, engaged CIO. As McKinsey put it: "Where respondents say their CIOs are very or extremely involved in shaping enterprise-wide strategy, they report much higher IT effectiveness than their peers whose CIOs are less involved."

A recent Harvey Nash/KPMG survey, among its key findings, uncovered that two-thirds of CIOs are now called on to generate revenue. Yet many CIOs remain outside the C-suite's inner sanctum, with only 34 percent reporting directly to the CEO.

McKinsey found that the top priorities of executives today are the same priorities they've always been: improve the effectiveness and cost-efficiency of business processes. To achieve these goals, CIOs should communicate with teams across the business to identify ways to help them do their jobs more effectively.

Communication means getting into departmental meetings, joining task forces and making a point of talking to everyday team members. It's the old concept of "managing by walking around" — being physically present throughout the organization and initiating conversations with users. CIOs should ask users both what they need from IT and how IT currently gets in their way. In addition to gathering intel, CIOs build visibility and trust when they get out from behind the desk.

Related Article: Star Trek: The Ultimate IT Team

Putting a Face With a Name

Could everyday employees within any organization pick their IT team members out of a lineup? If not, IT must find a way to become more than a faceless voice at the other end of a desperate helpdesk request.

One simple solution is to integrate helpdesk ticketing with enterprise social media. Helpdesk requests could be integrated into social media via API — click to open a ticket — or a designated person could monitor feeds for questions and refer requests to IT. Then, someone from IT can personally respond to the ticket and provide updates via social media.

Another way to increase visibility is for IT to spearhead training and technology education throughout the organization. Training could include one-on-one sessions with IT workers, small-group training sessions, how-to videos that users can asynchronously access or seminars related to security, mobility and other hot topics.

What matters most is that IT takes initiative to schedule training and ceases to offer training only when they're satisfied that users no longer need it. Good implementation with users — showing them both how to use an application and how it can improve their efficiency and effectiveness — not only cuts helpdesk volume but also helps them realize significant business value from their software investment.

The Value of IT Teams as Services Brokers

Although it looks different in different buildings, ITaaS means coming up with services that can help everyone do their jobs better, whether those services are physically run by IT or procured from remote sources. It's less about managing devices and more about brokering services and demonstrating value to internal customers.

To help higher-ups recognize the value of information technology in everyday business, IT teams have to prove themselves to be indispensable partners within the organizations they serve. Sometimes, perception is just as important as reality. When visibility drives the perception of effectiveness, reality is sure to follow.

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