If you ask this question to the general workforce in a company, they would answer “No", but if you ask the same question to any Information Technology (IT) professional, he/she would answer “Yes". Why exactly is this?
We are living in the 21st century and all of us are children of the “Age of technology", evolving even more as we speak. People often joke that children these days are born with devices in their hand, indicating their adaptability to this fast-changing environment. This is of course wonderful for human development but often our dependency on technology is overlooked and its value in our businesses are taken for granted.
Businesses all over the globe rely on information technology for their operations, making the IT department one of the cornerstones of any business. So why is the value of IT often overlooked in the industry and why do IT professionals feel underappreciated?
Client expectations and demands have increased exponentially, and all indications are that this trend will continue at an even faster pace — technology disruptors such as Facebook, Google, Amazon fuels this phenomenon. In the past companies could be competitive and serve their clients with limited IT capabilities, but now this has changed as the informal sector are now also significant users of IT and mobile services. IT is a critical part of any company's business success and can no longer be a backroom cost centre. In many cases technology (IT) companies are now driving the new business opportunities and have disrupted or displaced traditional business models, e.g. Amazon (initially books), Airbnb (Hotel Industry), Uber (Taxi industry), MPesa (Payments in Kenya), PayPal (World Payments). For banks IT is a crucial part of the business - to ensure we provide our clients with a safe and reliable platform to conduct their business.
As the Group Chief Information Officer at Capricorn Group, I am often asked how IT's vision strategically aligns with the group's strategy. In my view, there is only one strategy, and that is the Group Strategy of which IT is a key enabler. I am sure that men and women in similar roles all over the globe will agree that IT supports business strategy in any business and that the two simply cannot be separated from each other. In Capricorn Group we do the same in supporting the Group Strategy of Operational Excellence with superior client service as the main priority. This kind of support is done by improving the performance of our existing systems through renewing our IT infrastructure – data centres, hardware, network, etc. while driving change and new services in our chosen focused platforms. We are fortunate to have a great team of qualified professionals who drive this, and they know their value in it too.
Imagine no IT support in businesses with similar scopes. Do you think any company will be able to implement its strategies or reach its goals? – for this reason IT is a critical enabler in any business strategy.
It is currently a hot topic everywhere, whether IT is underated, since many IT professionals in their various roles take to forums and share stories of them feeling undervalued as a department. The truth is that staff in an organisation would broadly know what different departmental teams do, but often IT is behind closed doors and come across as somewhat mysterious to the rest of the organisation. This creates the impression that IT is not very active, and professionals should thus always be available for any whim or call, irrespective the time or place. Often all the other departments get recognised and acknowledged in company successes where IT being the silent engine behind the scenes are not. Everyone is happy when money is made, but not many understand that although IT operations can be costly, it is imperative in this age to remain on top of things and deliver the best possible service - this includes the people behind the systems and machines. Many fail to understand that IT is in fact the workhorse of the 21st century and that the people behind it all live and breathe in their fields as IT professionals' day and night.
This situation can be rectified through a company's culture, education, general consideration and respect. At Capricorn Group we are fortunate to have “The Capricorn Way", our internal vehicle for the company's culture, but what about you? Do you have something in place to correct a perception that has been left too long, silently harming your business? Let's face it, without IT no business can succeed.