Take innovation in stride with a nimble IT team structure

October 1, 20185 minute read

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A PC in your house. A phone in your pocket. All your pictures, movies, and music stored in a cloud. Things that seemed unbelievable not so long ago are now commonplace. Digital tech is disrupting lives, workplaces, and norms, but while the word “disruption” gets a bad rap, these changes drive more personal and workplace innovations than many have ever dreamed would take place.

It’s easy to see how these changes impacted business processes or communication norms, but what’s perhaps not so obvious is how they altered IT team structure. Whether these changes are reflected in official titles or positions, the new technologies IT now manages have changed IT itself. Here’s a look at some of the broadest changes and how IT has adapted.

Keep users working on the go—securely

Mobile devices—like phones, laptops, and tablets—allow users to take computing power with them wherever they go. Before the spread of mobility, tech use was confined to the office during standard business hours, and the IT team could reasonably control and maintain a secure perimeter around all business devices and networks. As mobile devices proliferated, that fact changed.

Now, users can—and will—work anytime, anywhere, using any device. This has permanently altered how much control IT has over what its users are doing and has forced support staff to focus on meeting around-the-clock service expectations. It’s also introduced a new, unique set of threats to the business. IT teams have adapted by expanding their notion of security, both by preparing for these new threat vectors and taking on a larger role as educators, training their colleagues on the potential hazards of mobility.

Store the right data in the cloud

The rise of mobility would not have been nearly as impactful without the near-simultaneous rise of the cloud. The cloud has enabled users to access apps and data from anywhere. Cloud computing has lessened reliance on on-premise hardware, changed how you can store and back up files, and altered how you can test, develop, and distribute applications. This, too, challenged the IT team structure—but in the case of the cloud, most changes have proven ultimately positive.

The firm 451 Research explored the impact of cloud applications on the role of IT and found several benefits for IT teams, including less time spent on mundane work, improved service levels and reliability, and better user experience and functionality. IT teams have been able to shift their focus from hands-on maintenance and upkeep to more meaningful contributions to the business. In the long term, this means your team can stop being order takers and instead become business partners helping the business reach new markets and customer bases.

Balance on the cutting edge with AI

The cloud removed many mundane tasks from the average IT team, and artificial intelligence (AI) removed them from everyone else. From customer service chatbots to automated billing and self-driving delivery trucks, the reach of AI is broad and diverse. While AI has allowed machines to take over many rote tasks, it’s complicated the role of the IT professional. Businesses require more staff members adept at data science or with specializations in machine learning. This means IT pros must continually renew their skill set to ensure they can keep up with the latest innovations.

Reliance on AI also puts greater emphasis on data hygiene. Businesses produce massive amounts of data. Bad, false, or erroneous data must be continually scrubbed from systems, as machine learning requires data of the highest quality if it’s going to provide accurate analyses. This can take up a lot of time and energy for IT teams, especially if data hygiene hasn’t previously been a priority for the business.

Stay agile in the face of change

The most resilient IT teams adapt to the tectonic shifts brought about by workplace innovations. How can your IT team structure itself to remain resilient and take disruptive technologies in stride? Here are some concrete tips for responding to IT innovations:

  1. Master new tech skills. Advances in the cloud and AI have moved IT teams away from maintenance and upkeep roles. Tech jobs now demand a more comprehensive skill set. Team members need to be perpetual learners, willing to be trained on the newest technologies that may impact the business. IT leaders must also be willing to invest in that training for their team.
  2. Improve soft skills. IT teams are being increasingly asked to interact with their colleagues in other departments. IT has become more integrated with the business, making communication and collaboration skills more important than ever. A good portion of the job has become helping others explore the use of new tech to improve business services.
  3. Prioritize security. Technologies break down barriers constraining businesses, but they also sometimes make them more susceptible to risks. Helping other departments navigate these changes means assuring them business networks remain secure. This includes choosing devices with robust security features, like printers that can detect, prevent, and even self-heal after attacks, and educating users on the role they play in maintaining security.
  4. Focus on user and customer experience. The ultimate goal of mobility, the cloud, and AI has been to improve user and customer experiences. As new technologies take hold, IT teams must focus on UX and CX as end goals. The ultimate question you should ask before every purchase or implementation is: How will this technology make the business better? All tech in your organization, from apps to printers, must work faster and have less downtime than before.

Change will remain a constant in the tech world, and IT departments must accept disruption as the norm. The only way to truly prepare is to stay flexible and adaptable. By doing so, your team can lead by example, showing the rest of the company that change is a good thing.

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