Ask the IT Consultant

Oct 30 2010   11:30AM GMT

Learning to Leverage Business Expertise to Stay Competitive – Part 1

ITKE ITKE Profile: ITKE

Question: As businesses become increasingly sophisticated, how can IT knowledge workers gain the business knowledge to remain competitive?

Companies are increasingly using information technology to sell more products, grow their business and improve their bottom line.  For example, online banking gives customers more convenient access to their accounts while lowering costs for retail banks.  Retail banking is now a 24x7x365 business.  Retailers use technology to track store inventory, monitor daily sales and manage their workforce, all of which has increased sales per square foot.  However, when retail store personnel are unable to access the systems, sales grind to a halt.  This increased dependence on technology has upped the ante for the IT department.

In this new highly competitive business environment, IT must be both user centric and be able to keep systems running smoothly around the clock.   In order to effectively support users and remain competitive, IT personnel need to increase their business knowledge for the following reasons:

  • Technology is fused with business processes – For example, a retail clerk uses a store inventory system to search for a customer requested item
  • The IT department must empower people so that they can be as productive as possible
  • IT workers must champion technologies that open new markets, increase “wallet share” with existing customers, and improve customer service

When these three points are applied, everyone wins – - customers, suppliers, shareholders, and employees.  IT workers typically are the rare individuals in an organization that can really make technology “sing and dance.” Unfortunately, few IT workers have sufficient business knowledge to help users get the most out of the technology to achieve the outstanding business results they are looking for.

Perspective is the secret sauce that is missing from IT workers ability to boost their business knowledge.  Traditionally, IT professionals have pursued and been rewarded for increasing technical their knowledge, not their business acumen.  Moreover, many IT practitioners are technology elitists who do not appreciate why their business colleagues do not “understand  IT”.  While IT is the steward of technology, it is the responsibility of IT workers to convey to their companies how to best leverage that expensive IT systems investment.   In today’s world, technology is fused with business so it is time for all IT professionals to step up to the plate and “understand business”.  The next installment will discuss how IT leaders can drive that needed change in perspective within their organization.

About the Author

Robert Johnson, Director of Product Marketing at Atrion Networking Corporation where he’s responsible for market analysis, developing new products and co-leading the company’s managed services business line. Robert is a veteran of the IT industry having held executive strategy and marketing positions with CGI Inc., Deloitte Consulting and Digital Equipment Corp.

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