Whether you are a large company or a small business, to upper management, the IT department often represents a cost center that can provide great service, but rarely does much for the bottom line unless it is creating innovative advantage.
Because of this type of viewpoint and new options that allow companies to move the bulk of their applications and support into the cloud, there are more reasons than ever for IT managers to integrate further with their company’s core businesses.
Here are three of the top reasons for IT managers to really know your business:
1. You are Developing for Industry Experts
Although your end users are likely not going to be as tech savvy as those in the IT department, they are business specialists that need the best support possible to maintain their competitive advantage over other firms. This is something that is often highlighted when the IT department is tasked with creating or customizing an application that will meet the needs of internal users and clients. IT managers that know the business or spend the extra time to ensure that they nail the requirements from the standpoint of someone who is an expert in the industry will allow those that you support to have that much more ability to do their job well once the application is finished. Workflows are also important. Viewing how your company does business and creating solutions that match that rhythm without interrupting it are an important part of serving your internal client base in ways that upper management will approve of.
2. Your Future and your Department’s Future Depends upon it
If you are looking for promotional opportunities in your firm beyond a role that is purely technical, all roads lead through becoming an expert in your business. By integrating your approach and getting in line with corporate financial goals as a business expert that understands how and why your company functions the way that it does, you make yourself much more valuable as an employee and a candidate. From a departmental standpoint, it is hard to argue with some of the financial results that are being achieved as companies right size their IT departments after making cloud decisions that save them money. When the City of Los Angeles moved to Google Apps from locally served productivity applications, a great deal of the savings was in not having to pay as many IT people to support what they originally had in place. Just the same, in many firms, it isn’t really an either/or type of situation when applications get moved into the cloud. Many of the IT people that are multi-functional and understand the business well end up in expanded roles that encompass some business functionality.
3. Being Efficient and Innovative is Normally a Function of your Industry Understanding
Most managers are capable of making solid decisions when they have about 70 percent of the information that they need in front of them. Expecting more than that is frequently quite costly. As an IT manager, one of the best ways to increase the amount of information that you carry around before you make a decision is to delve into understanding your industry and company from a business perspective. Because part of your function is quality, it should be easy to ferret out areas that could use improvement and come up with projects that will cost-effectively address inefficiencies. There is a saying in business that postulates that most experts are unconsciously competent, or they know everything that they need to know, but do not necessarily know why they know it. Focusing on attaining this level of knowledge in your industry means absorbing financial, marketing, operations, HR, and sales data to the extent that you can carry on business-level meetings with managers in each department. The closer you get to that type of awareness, the better the solutions and innovations that you create within your department will be.
If you are just starting out in the industry, trying to know your business from an efficiency standpoint is a good goal. It should allow you to help make infrastructure suggestions that will be positive while allowing you to grow on the business side so that your solutions will be in sync with what upper management is seeking.
The IT world has changed over the past decade as some of the benefit of creating a local wheel has moved to the cloud data center. For those that remain onsite as managers and workers, the importance of understanding your company on the business side has become an important part of how you do your job.