In recent years, IT’s role within a business has massively shifted. Long gone are the days of it simply being a backend operation, stuck in the company basement like the IT Crowd in the mid noughties. Now, technology is the driver of change and IT is the hub of a business – and it needs to own that position.
Yet, this change can also bring its own difficulties. There are still ongoing challenges that IT needs to overcome, and it cannot do so alone. Without people, businesses also wouldn’t keep running, and that means, to ensure business success, HR and IT need to be two sides of the same coin. This coming year, HR and IT departments must start properly communicating and working together.
So, what are the problems that IT is still facing and how can working with HR help on the way to resolving them?
Challenge #1: Clinging on to old ways
With this shift in IT’s business role, there can still be a tendency to focus too much on previous ‘traditional’ IT tasks, overlooking how IT’s remit and scope for business influence has increased – and this attitude doesn’t just hold true within the IT department itself but also across the business.
While not every action that you take can or must be strategic, certain transactional processes still need to happen after all, the IT department must look beyond the realms of compliance and automating admin. Instead, shift your mindset to thinking about will most positively impact the wider company and help achieve overall business goals? For many companies, the big objective is still digital transformation but to achieve that, employees need to be brought on board and up to speed as well. IT can help.
For any tool or system that you implement, look at how you could further apply this to other uses to help create a more agile workplace. For example, that new platform you introduced to streamline customer interactions and service, could that be utilised internally to aid workflows and communication? Digitalisation needs to happen across the whole business and often the most overlooked areas, such as HR and employee experience, can be those that will bring the biggest value and long-term return.
This is not to say that you won’t meet resistance when trying to make these changes in the workplace, but this is precisely where working with HR can help. Acting as employee ambassador and go-between, HR can translate cutting costs and increasing productivity into what individual employees will want to hear – how this will bring new opportunities and growth that will benefit them.
Challenge #2: Short-term fixes
Any IT professional knows that continuously adding to your tech stack is only going to make it a lot more complicated and difficult to manage in the long run, perhaps even calling for an eventual total system overhaul. Much like putting a plaster over a deep wound, if you are continuously just fixing problems as and when they come up, it will be a never-ending battle.
Despite best efforts, this is too often what IT is forced to do, having to add new tools for different business wants and needs, patching together new and old systems and dealing with the consequent issues that arise. But there are means to make this at least a little simpler. Often the biggest problem is that while demands are made for these new implementations, they are then not properly used. Tools are abandoned a few weeks later as people migrate back to old and familiar ones, new systems are just ignored but the same initial need is still there, so new different processes are implemented – and the cycle continues.
In the end, you’re left with a myriad of different platforms and systems being used by different teams. Not only is this inefficient for the business, it is a real headache for IT to manage.
However, liaising with HR, you can ensure that new tools and systems are going to hold out in the long run, making sure that any necessary training is effectively rolled out to enable widespread and continued employee adoption. If employees know how to use these tools and systems, what to use them for and how to get the most out of them, they will want to keep using them. Moreover, if you’re properly discussing new IT systems and tools, HR can also share any feedback and suggestions from employees for you to then make the improvements and upgrades that are really needed.
It’s much easier to make small incremental amendments than implementing whole new systems. Most importantly, this also means that your precious time and IT budget is invested where it will make the most positive difference to the business.
Challenge #3: Addressing the growing skills gap now
Whilst providing all the tools and systems that the wider company and employees may need, you also need to ensure that your own needs in the IT department are fulfilled as well, namely the one for great talent. All industries are currently suffering with skills gaps but finding and retaining employees with the needed digital skills and competencies, especially for IT’s new business role, is proving a particular challenge.
This is where it will greatly aid the IT department to have that mutual relationship with HR, being able to continuously outline where HR needs help to plug those skills gaps. But again, this still needs to be done looking at the long term. IT should not only turn to HR when there is an urgent need, looking to make a panic hire. Instead, IT and HR need to be working on effective succession plans together, realising what changes will be happening in the IT department and what skills and competencies will be needed accordingly. Remember, you may be in need of more than just certain technical knowledge but also particular soft skills and attitudes too.
This is not only a case of defining what potential new external hires HR will need to make, rather you need to also look at how HR can help you develop and upskill your own current IT team to prepare for those upcoming needs – perhaps even encouraging people to move into IT from other departments. There could well be someone sat in marketing who is brilliant at coding. Unless IT and HR are having those key conversations – and on a regular basis – then you won’t know. Not only will this hinder the IT department, it will be a blocker for overall progress and innovation within the business.
So, when making the plans for this year, take the time to step back and see what changes can be made to not only help IT but to also have a wider and deeper impact on the overall business. In 2020, it’s finally time for HR and IT to keep one another in the loop, factor in those regular conversations, and ultimately, help boost your company’s success.
Interested in hearing industry leaders discuss subjects like this and sharing their use-cases? Attend the co-located IoT Tech Expo, Blockchain Expo, AI & Big Data Expo, Cyber Security & Cloud Expo and 5G Expo World Series with upcoming events in Silicon Valley, London and Amsterdam and explore the future of enterprise technology.