What’s the right technology discussion?

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Originally published by James on LinkedIn.

IT has been the centre of all businesses for all of this century and for many it has been a distraction if not a ‘necessary evil’.

Today, IT has commoditised and there is an urgent and renewed focus on technology as an innovation centre rather than a cost centre.

Yet (forgive my crude above/below the line diagram) if you look at the reality many businesses are still focused below the line, and IT providers and IT departments focus is still on maintaining the base line of IT.  But there’s no innovation there.  It’s a cost centre born in the last century. 

At one point people didn’t believe everyone would have a car, horses would still be used everyday, in the 80’s people didn’t think there would be a PC on everyone’s desk, in the 90’s some businesses actually locked down emails only to senior staff, in the 00’s no one believed a phone would be more powerful than a PC from 10 years earlier, today mobile and internet, new business solutions and cloud are changing the landscape even faster – go and ask a blacksmith what happened to their business.

Today this is why CMOs of large organisations were at the forefront of change because IT could not keep up with the need for businesses to go online.  They had to make decisions outside the IT department to get what was needed to achieve their business goals.

The trend hasn’t stopped there.  I speak with CEOs and CFOs every day who either want to simplify the baseline IT because it’s a cost centre and isn’t helping achieve business objectives, or innovate above the line and get the business where it needs to be – productive, working online, providing a better customer experience and able to scale.

To get above the line and be a more innovative business it’s time to break free of conventional IT – the answers just aren’t there.  Baseline IT is designed to meet the old needs of your business and should just work.  It’s not a discussion.

Breaking Free

There are knowns, and unknowns.  What we know is that baseline IT has rapidly become a commodity, computers may be a necessity but it can be price compared to anyone.   General IT support services is about the same and so is basic cloud computing.

However, innovation is a different ball game and is only measurable once you start making change.  It takes leadership from within and often guidance from outside to know how best to innovate and break through in your current marketplace using new technology.

A good way to achieve innovation is to question everything – including your current IT structure – to figure out what is truly necessary.  Yes you need a baseline and there is a cost to that.  No, it doesn’t need to be as complex as it was in the past.

What’s above the line IT?

Above the line IT is smarter because it reduces complexity and helps achieve goals faster.  There have never been more apps and services to solve a problem than there is right now.  New technology is cloud, it enables productivity without delays and it allows you to pivot from one tool to another as you see fit and with minimal effort.  Far from the old days of waiting for IT to install a program, new IT is flexible and driven by leadership.

The right conversations

We’ve looked to IT in the past because they have brought us the latest tools and gadgets, sometimes with heroic effort, and kept our business engines running

Today however, IT is distracted.  IT is maintaining the baseline while you look for answers to today’s business challenges.   And while this is a broad generalisation, many IT professionals are not in a position to provide insight in to new technology that isn’t within their domain of expertise.

Some conversation points for above the line IT:

  • what is the best possible IT platform for our business? Is it cloud and if so, what is the best and most cost effective way to get to cloud?
  • What do our internal tools look like, are they innovative and dynamic or static and tied to an older set of standards? Can these tools be cloud? is there an online alternative?
  • What do our client facing systems look like – are they dynamic like using an app or smooth like visiting the Apple Store or are they dated, lack real time insights and difficult for customers to use?
  • How do we reduce our baseline IT costs and redeploy our capital in to innovative ideas, development and simpler business processes?
  • What is our benchmark against others in our industry – are we behind? ahead? the same? What can we do about it?

Few of these are traditional IT discussions especially if you find yourself being dragged below the line to focus on baseline IT.

The answers are above the line.  Innovative leaders use technology to achieve a competitive advantage.

James is the Managing Director of I Know IT, a company founded on the basis that your IT should simply work. Once IT is working the goal is to use it to your competitive advantage.

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