Until the late 90’s, the main role of the IT department (then known as data processing) was to write and maintain programs to run parts of the business. Much of its time and resources were consumed just to keep hardware and software running. With the advent of more packaged solutions, especially ERP systems, the IT staff’s responsibilities shifted somewhat from custom programming to maintaining and interfacing packaged solutions. As time went on, users began to ask functional questions that were more business-related than technical. So IT had to become a business management resource more than a technical support resource. Today, an understanding of business processes and functionality remains an important facet of IT department responsibility.
IT as Value Add
With the advent of software-as-a-service (SaaS) and cloud computing solutions, the role of the IT department is once again evolving to meet new challenges. With cloud-based applications, for instance, IT is no longer responsible for installing and maintaining the applications and updates, daily back-ups and other routine tasks. Those activities belong with the SaaS supplier.
Yet the IT department is likely still considered as application experts and business process enablement advisors. IT should embrace this role as an important value-adding contribution to company success. Further, with its increased focus on business problem solving and decreased focus on technical aspects, IT staff should be encouraged to learn more about the functional side of ERP, CRM and other applications that are critical to operational users.
An Eye on Business Benefit
Acting as a liaison between the application suppliers and the user community, IT staff is well positioned to identify how systems can help the company reduce costs, increase flexibility and agility, improve customer service, and reduce time-to-market.
One example is the increased availability of smart phones and tablets, which has created more interest in linking these devices to business information systems. Other technologies like GPS, RFID smart tags and plant/warehouse level devices like voice technology offer plenty of opportunities – and challenges – to IT departments. This evolution will keep technology firmly in place for IT professionals as they help users find new ways to apply these tools for business benefit.
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