IT not a support functionSupport Function – The History

One of the enduring debates within the corporate world is that IT is a support function in the same way that Finance or HR are. This is something I contend is no longer true in any modern business. You certainly don’t here of any businesses that are gaining market share on the back of being able to do their accounts quicker or more efficiently than others.

Back in the day when everyone was rushing to implement first generation ERP systems and improve the transaction base of the business this was probably true. These systems enable businesses to get in control of the nuts and bolts of the business and put order in place.

At first these were differentiators and businesses that were first to market could gain improved share and business based on these improvements. Generally productivity increased and cost saving were made. However they were very much the automation of the back office.

Over time most companies moved to some level of ERP and the field was levelled.

Then the push was for Data Warehousing which eventually became BI (Business Intelligence). This provided businesses with a means of understanding themselves and their markets in ways that had never been thought of before. This was the point at which the paradigm changed and IT became more of a partner with the business.

Support Function – The Future

In the 21st century businesses can no longer survive without great IT and in many instances the IT is what differentiates certain businesses from others. Being able to react to markets and customers quickly is now the way to gain market share.

However as this change has progressed there are still many cases where people in the business perceive IT as a Master/Slave relationship. They still talk about IT as if it is a bunch of geeks in the basement who love to code, understand the technology but not the business.

These dinosaurs need to be convinced of the benefits of IT and made to see that the world has changed. In order to do this the IT department need to up their game and prove to these sceptics what they have to offer.

It is up to senior IT management to sell the ideas and offerings of the department to the business. To challenge when necessary and offer alternatives and ideas to the business leaders.

We are entering a time where the technology opportunities are increasing constantly and as IT professionals we need to consider these technologies and see how they can help our businesses grow not just follow instruction. How can the tablets and other future technologies be deployed to the business to give advantage?

An old boss of mine always used to say you need to “walk in the steps of the business man” to understand what he needs and then provide it. This is more important than ever and we should be partnering (equally) with the business when ever we can. Once we do that then IT will not longer be perceived as a support function and a slave to the business.