Give IT a seat at the business table


12 September 2014
Chris LaPoint of SolarWinds

SolarWinds’ recent survey of 220 IT decision makers on how IT roles have evolved over the years, found  - somewhat startlingly - that IT personnel feel they are not receiving the right training to best provide sustainable business advice. The survey also revealed many feel ill-equipped to make informed, strategic decisions about emerging technologies, putting numerous Singapore businesses behind the curve and numerous others aren’t even provided enough opportunity to deliver this consultancy.

The survey results follow recent comments made by Singapore’s labour chief (cabinet minister and secretary-general of the National Trades Union Congress Lim Swee Say) on the country’s lukewarm productivity growth despite reports of companies having made leaps in productivity and innovation. This discrepancy arises as many growing sectors such as security and retail, continue to be labour-intensive and use outdated tools and methods, pulling down overall productivity.

Leveraging IT effectively can play a key part in helping to address this gap, but how? We can start by understanding the concerns local IT personnel have of their roles to help enable businesses to better align with their technology departments towards a common goal.

A desire to speak up

35 per cent of Singapore-based IT personnel say they would prefer more opportunities to speak about technology with their company’s key decision makers. However, a staggering 62 per cent say they are only occasionally given the opportunity to do so.

This means many organisations could be missing a trick by not using IT as business and productivity enabler. Rather than seeing IT merely as the trouble-shooters and firefighters to call upon when issues arise, business leaders need to consciously think of the IT function as a key resource when mapping business priorities and strategies.

Holistic view of skillsets

When IT personnel were asked about how confident they were to provide guidance and expertise in their company on emerging technology, the majority (64 per cent) claimed they were only somewhat comfortable in their role to do so. To address this, a staggering 61 per cent of survey participants said they would need more training in their respective areas of responsibility, while over a third (36 per cent) said they would need a better understanding of the business.

Aside from giving IT departments a voice at the decision making table, companies need to ensure they are well-equipped to bring valuable and actionable insights to the business. But almost more importantly, it is critical for companies to ensure the IT department understands the overall business direction so they can help map their expertise to business priorities.

Future-proofing skillsets

In the next three to five years, IT roles will undergo a huge transformation – IT personnel believe that key technologies and IT functions such as Cloud Computing or Software as a Service (43 per cent, Technical Support (39 per cent) and Information Security (36 per cent) will become automated, further pointing to a need for IT staff to advance their skills to be on top of the transformation and its impact. This means that ongoing training is critical to ensure the IT function is best placed to advise on the latest trends and strategic opportunities for the business.

The survey findings surface the critical need for companies to invest in adequate training programmes so IT staff are equipped to deal with industry changes affecting their role and continue to add value to the business.

Making decisions about emerging technology is no longer just the role of a C-level executive. IT pros are at the heart of every organisation. They are the ones that spend their time understanding technological developments, and when they have the correct resources and given the opportunity to consult, they can successfully advise on key IT business decisions affecting the larger organisation.

  • Chris LaPoint is Vice President of Product Management at SolarWinds.