One of the biggest misconceptions about IT is that we are only called when something is broken and needs to be fixed.
But IT’s unique knowledge and skills place us in a central role for the organization. And we should use that position of influence to unlock potential and achieve three main goals: enablement, protection, and innovation.
Goal #1: Enabling the Organization
If something is broken, yes, we fix it. But enabling the organization is much more than that.
Our highest priority is ensuring our companies run smoothly and empowering employees’ best work. To that end, IT teams are responsible for making sure talent has the tools and systems they need to succeed – and continuously improving on those tools and systems.
If the company moves to a hybrid work environment, IT is a key player in making sure productivity doesn’t suffer. If a team needs new tech to manage customer data, we vet the vendor and make sure the software works for everyone. If customers request a new feature, we decide whether this is a build-or-buy moment, test, and implement.
Sometimes enabling the organization means streamlining and organizing the tech stack. When Contentstack was in startup mode, our focus was accomplishing everything as quickly as we could. That resulted in a mountain of unused tools and complex (often frustrating) workflows that hindered productivity.
As a growth-stage company, our focus shifted to making systems effective and efficient. This means we work with Operations to audit existing processes, look for better software solutions, and constantly evaluate to make sure our teams are supported. As a result, we are smarter about how we onboard new team members, customers, and partners and avoid bottlenecks as we grow.
Goal #2: Protecting the Organization
IT organizations are also responsible for keeping systems, hardware, and employees secure. Digital and cybersecurity threats are a much greater concern today than ten years ago; attacks like phishing, malware, and ransomware happen often and cost organizations more each year.
Our job is to minimize the exposure and risks to the organization. That includes ensuring any tool or tech handling employee and customer data is compliant with the organization’s standards, setting up an efficient control framework, and educating the organization on navigating it and managing certain risks themselves. (Hello, “suspicious email” training.)
Perform security checks often, but not too often that it becomes a chokepoint. This is a delicate balance. I once worked for an IT organization that tried to “de-risk” everything. Fear of change was the driver.
What happened? Young, talented professionals left in droves, and the organization is a shadow of its former self. Security and compliance requirements should be tight enough to avoid significant risk factors, but not too constricting that we stifle experimentation and innovation.
Goal #3: Inspiring Innovation
When people think of inspiration, they tend to attribute this to CEOs, CMOs, and even individual managers. But inspiration and innovation can and should be widespread — and IT should be at the heart of it.
Digital transformation is an overused phrase, but it’s reality. No company can ignore the fact that major shifts are required to future-proof their businesses. Employees and candidates — especially the upcoming Gen Z workforce — are looking for companies that are evolving to keep pace with the rest of the world.
The strongest company cultures I’ve seen have a roadmap for the future, and their department heads are aligned to that vision, able to communicate it in a way that resonates, and motivate their teams to bring the vision to life.
Part of motivating teams is giving people the freedom to experiment and contribute. CTOs should create environments where teams can win or learn quickly.
For example, about a decade ago, my team wanted to build a visual collaboration experience — like Miro — to be able to drag and drop elements graphically on a web browser. At the time, that wasn’t a common tool and we had very few examples to reference. But we decided to go for it.
In one month’s time, we built a proof of concept from the initial idea. Three months later, we had the tool built out. We still use it today, because we allowed our teams to explore and experiment.
One caveat: when big change is required, don’t expect your people to understand and accept something new right away. Implement the proper change management and training to achieve the vision. And model the behavior.
While it’s tempting to stick with what is “good enough,” IT teams should push organizations to solutions that might work even better. Yes, our job is to protect but we also provide the pathway to transformation.
IT does a lot more in the organization than fix malfunctioning tech. When we enable, protect, and inspire the people within an organization, the entire company achieves more than they ever thought possible.
Image credit: Gorodenkoff/depositphotos.com
Nishant Patel pioneered “headless CMS” over a decade ago. Nishant is a serial tech entrepreneur and CTO, and currently co-founder and CTO at Contentstack. Under Nishant’s leadership, the company builds enterprise software products that power digital transformation and further the rise of the API economy. Nishant previously founded and led the digital solutions consultancy Raw Engineering and integration and automation platform Built.io, which was acquired by Software AG. For 20+ years, Nishant has shaped the future of the API-first, cloud native industry and made Contenstack the Content Experience Platform (CXP) category leader.