(this originally appeared on DataVersity.Net)
Traditional IT roles are changing. In the last two to three years alone, IT professionals across a variety of disciplines—systems, virtualization, databases, storage, networking—have experienced significant updates to their job descriptions to align with new capabilities introduced by the Cloud.
IT’s function within businesses is changing, as well. A recent KPMG® survey shows that many corporate leaders now realize they must understand the technology side of the business to effectively do their jobs. Still, while companies are rushing to become “digitally transformed” and investing in any and every tool that promises to accelerate processes and deliver a higher-quality customer experience,
IT professionals and department managers are often left out of broader technology strategy discussions.
This burgeoning trend likely comes as no surprise. Historically, IT has been perceived by the business at-large as the “department of no,” choosing to work independently to ensure uptime and availability rather than collaborating with leadership on desired outcomes. Enter Cloud Computing, an elastic and efficient resource that can be configured with the push of a button, which offers business managers the ability to circumvent the IT department entirely and avoid hearing all the technical reasons a project can’t be done. Despite this disconnect, it’s important for IT to maintain a seat the digital transformation table—first and foremost, because the business is what drives all technology initiatives and investments, but also to provide leadership with critical insights.
For example, C-suite executives and other business leaders recognize the transformative potential of technology like cloud computing and other digital initiatives. However, there is more to be considered about which workload and applications should actually be migrated to a service provider, and these considerations are often not appreciated. Many organizations are aiming to have their entire data center hosted in the cloud in the next two years and aim to emulate companies like Netflix® and Facebook®, which use cloud resources to deliver thousands of terabytes of video data to consumers every hour of every day. Those are not the needs of your average enterprise, and the IT department can provide valuable insight as to what type of model is most likely to deliver the needed results.
Similarly, IT having a hand in the direction of technology adoption now can avoid the need to untangle a complicated web of disparate tools and platforms later. Without a centralized team overseeing deployments, organizations risk leveraging numerous tools that may do the same thing—creating wasted resources—or using a platform that hasn’t been vetted and may include security vulnerabilities that would allow exploitations of private customer data. Regardless of the traditional relationship between IT and business leadership, the rapid rate at which organizations today are pursuing digital transformation initiatives requires IT’s involvement.
Save IT a Seat: Best Practices for Bridging the Gap
Rome wasn’t built in a day, and likewise, it will take time and effort to reshape the way IT professionals and business leaders engage in conversations around technology adoption and digital strategy. Here are a few best practices for managing through this process:
- Remain open and transparent: IT professionals looking to become more involved in high-level discussions must identify the best way to have a conversation with executives and leadership about their business goals. Often, this exchange is at the heart of IT’s disconnect with the business: executive leadership is focused on revenue, cost and risk, while IT is thinking about projects in terms of the technical foundation like server CPUs, network bandwidth, gigabytes of resources. For IT teams to retain a seat at the table, they must become fluent in this business language—what is the goal leadership wants to achieve, and how can IT get them there?
- Become an extra resource: Remember, business managers are used to hearing all sorts of reasons why something can’t be done, so it’s important to take steps towards reversing this trend by becoming a helpful resource to business unit managers and leadership. If a department has deployed a new tool—even without IT’s oversight—you should look to offer support around management, any tips and tricks that could make their use of that technology easier and more secure. This approach reinforces to leadership that IT’s presence can allow the organization to collectively be more successful.
- Identify and prepare for Plan B: For the variety of workloads that are being hurriedly migrated to the cloud now and over the next year, IT should be prepared for the potential need to move those back on-premises. The SolarWinds IT Trends Index 2017: Portrait of a Hybrid IT Organization revealed that 35 percent reported migrating applications back into the physical data center in the last 12 months. Not every application is suited for the cloud, and businesses may realize that their end goal—cost efficiency, increased performance or availability, etc.—is not being realized. It will be important for the IT professional to help smooth any bumps in the road by having a prepared Plan B, should it be necessary. Tools like comprehensive monitoring platforms can increase understanding of what an application requires to perform successfully in the cloud or if it may need to be migrated back on-premises.
- Keep an eye on the tech horizon: The business could fall behind if IT professionals don’t have their eyes on what a container is or establishing an understanding of how DevOps works and impacts data center management, or becoming fluent in the concept of agile programming. IT must maintain an awareness—through freemium testing and demos of new functions—of what the market leaders like VMware®, AWS®, and Cisco® are doing in the cloud space to make informed recommendations to leadership on technology adoption strategies.
At the end of the day, digital transformation is reshaping the modern business to deliver greater cost efficiency and quality of service for end-users. But the speed at which companies are looking to capitalize on this strategy has created an environment in which technology is adopted without oversight from IT, leading to added security risks, complexity and ineffective deployment models. By leveraging the above best practices, IT professionals can begin to bridge the gap, work with leadership to achieve mutual business goals and keep their seat at the digital transformation table.