It made sense many years ago for IT departments to be separate from business. But now, integrated technology in every business questions whether it makes sense to have a dedicated in-house IT department. Could the problem lie within the IT employees themselves? Or does it lie within the whole notion of a separate department?
Modern technology alongside the power of the internet provokes a forward-thinking society that should be looking for innovative ways to help streamline business. A small number of SMEs are looking for change and trying out new methods. They have decided that a dedicated IT department might not be necessary.
Some SMEs are rethinking/reorganising the typical company structure. Instead of having a dedicated IT department with its own budget and management. They are questioning the effectiveness of having technical specialists bound together. Therefore, instead of a separate department, they are trying something else. They are dispersing IT employees out within the different departments of the organisation. It aims to fuse both internal business and tech-based teams for improved efficiency. For example, the sales team will have their own IT employee(s) who helps them specifically with their queries. The Finance team would also have their own IT employee(s) and so on. This restructure attempts to move away from the old partnership IT and business once had, where departments must quantify for when and for how long they will need support. This is usually defined for the year and falls in line with company budgeting.
This change is to help the IT department become faster and more flexible. It’s also to enforce the analogy of how business isn’t separate from technology. Your business is technology, and technology is your business. Especially within the world of Covid-19, where technology was firmly established as the backbone of modern society.
What is important is that IT is not simply abandoned by your organisation. You wouldn’t want the sales team trying to manage the firewall settings. Or employee’s illiterate in Python code attempting to tackle a problem with your website. Because this would only lead to overworked and stressed staff. However, would putting Python coders in accounting be beneficial if the accounting department is a major consumer of a coder’s time?
It could be easily argued, why don’t we do this with other departments such as HR? But it’s important to remember that the whole purpose of this restructure is to bridge the divide between IT and business. Simple tasks not requiring too much technical skill also take up a lot of IT departments time. Whereas units such as HR often deal with confidential/sensitive information.
However, there are problems with this approach, such as legacy management styles that are resistant to change. Often these are found within older and larger companies. Hence why small, new businesses are more likely to adopt this emerging approach to IT. Potentially seen as ‘cutting corners’, but justified with their thinking. Elements such as cost are a big factor in their decision making. It depends if your business can afford IT workers, or if you simply do not want to pay.
Recently, cloud computing has helped bridge that divide for companies who don’t require a full-fledged IT team but still need that support. Simple ticket systems act as a method for solutions. They’re effective and reliable, but more importantly, they add another layer of security to your organisation. Not having an IT department could easily be detrimental when faced with hackers, viruses, malware, and other threats. Cloud computing also means that having hardware and software stored on-site is no longer required. Helping to reduce upfront and upkeep costs, along with threats of theft or tampering.
So of course, if you have your own software, on-site servers, or any other specialist tech, then you will need qualified personnel to manage that. This was the original purpose of the IT department, but as stated, cloud computing is a viable option that outsources those required specialists. Again though, it depends on your area of business. If you’re dealing with highly sensitive information, then a third-party company may not be a suitable solution.
If you were to decentralize your IT department then you will still require some form of centralisation. Continuity established across at least: programming languages, security protocols and process handling. Ensuring delivery of digital solutions under the same architectural umbrella. However, beyond these agreements, IT staff need free rein over how they’d like to work, as the whole notion of this restructure revolves around freedom.
Two organisations, one in finance and one in energy, discovered that having an independent IT department impacted the time taken to complete IT tasks. Customers of today demand fast service. If you fail to provide it, then they may seek a more agile and flexible solution. Therefore, you need to get the best out of your employees, and question: Do you want them to be competing as a department, with themselves, or against rival businesses?
These two organisations decided that to boost their overall performance, they need to have IT specialists embedded within each department. Thus, allowing for a distribution of technical ability and knowledge. You could go even further and allocate staff to each team within a department. Ultimately, the goal is to have a more efficient business – having people with business knowledge paired with people with technical knowledge may be a way to achieve that.
Do Businesses Really Need an IT Department?
For many organisations, this will be an extremely risky and daunting change, as it shifts company structure. Companies will have to manage their IT resource in a new way from which they’re used to, which could take time. However, whether companies wish to adopt this controversial idea or not, it is still an interesting proposition.