19 Nov Doing it Right: Business IT Fusion for the Future
Businesses today are focused on being profitable and productive. Technology promises both. In the coming days, months and years, you’ll see an increase in the adoption of technology among small–to-medium-size businesses, as well as mid-to-large-size commercial businesses. Our local businesses will incorporate technology to add efficiency to their business models and drive more dollars through their doors.
There are several new federal and state regulations that also are going to drive a significant increase in Information Technology (IT) adoption and spending. To comply with these new laws, front and back office business processes need to be integrated with IT solutions.
The new HIPAA guidelines for the portability and privacy of medical records and the challenges now imposed on corporations by the Sarbanes-Oxley Act will make huge demands on IT resources to establish, audit and prove proper corporate governance. Be prepared to spend more on mass storage, document and content management systems as well as new tools for business intelligence.
The demands of homeland security are having an impact on IT systems purchases beyond the corporate market. Homeland security quickly is becoming a big influencer within our school districts. Wireless video surveillance is an easy and affordable way for schools, retail and businesses to secure their premises and give a sense of security to students, customers and workers.
Earlier this year, we hired Chamberlain Research Consultants to conduct focus groups with our long-term customers to help us learn what is most important to them. The top two priority IT spending categories were infrastructure upgrades and security. While security was rated high, few have robust security systems in place. Other areas of priority include e-commerce, internal systems integration, remote access, and enterprise databases.
Let’s take a brief look at how technology has evolved to further show what the future will hold. The early 80s, with the introduction of the PC, began the shift away from centralized, mainframe systems. Decentralized buying of non-compatible systems by rouge, end –user department IT directors began to spread. As the PC began to proliferate, more and more information became available. The need to share this information set the stage for local and wide area networks.
These autonomous, sometimes self-proclaimed IT departments spent substantive dollars on technology hardware. (Some technology departments even purchased equipment just to play with technology!) As IT expenditures grew, companies began to question the value of IT to their organizations, and we saw a shift toward involving CFOs in the approval of technology purchases.
In the last several years, the role of IT in the success of businesses has become increasingly clear. Those companies who expect to gain a competitive advantage in their field now view IT as an investment. Not only has hardware become a commodity, but also we are seeing the same effect with software and services. Today’s technology investments are made on complete solutions that represent products and services from multiple vendors and partners to best meet the needs of the customer. The return on investment needs to be immediate and substantive. There needs to be a justification for how a business process can be enhanced by new technology purchases to reduce costs, increase profits and/or improve customer retention.
According to a recent article in eWeek, Carly Fiorina, CEO Hewlett Packard, gave the following advice to CIOs at a recent Gartner Group Symposium,” every business decision triggers an IT event. It is your job to figure out how to make that as fast, seamless, and cost effective as possible. You have to get the technology right.”
Steve Haroldson, CTO CUNA Mutual Group, Madison agrees. He states, “it is critical that IT be at the table for the business decisions that create the technology need. The input of experienced IT professionals can often make or break a perceived business opportunity. As we have all seen, especially in recent years, great conceptual ideas like CRM, with the wrong business plan and/or technological implementation can cause the cost benefit to be reduced to zero, or even less. It is a collaborative approach between the business unit and IT that selects both the best business opportunities and the best and most cost effective technological support mechanisms that ultimately create the positive bottom-line results we all strive for.”
Several other key technologies include the implementation of Voice over IP, as it streamlines network management, reduces long distance costs, and brings convergence to the desktop. Video surveillance is growing in demand as well. For example, Cisco Systems has put together a complete solution for police, fire, and emergency services teams that enable them to see the same view of an emergency situation right from a console in their vehicles. Imagine the impact this has on their responsiveness, preparedness, and the lives they can save.
One other interesting finding was that most businesses kept their IT budgets the same as the previous year, with some actually increasing. Most of these companies had no increase in staff, and many had reductions. There is significant work being shifted or under consideration to move to offshore, especially software development. IT is being asked to drive efficiencies within their organizations.
In these challenging times, today’s effective business leaders understand the importance of business technology fusion. They aren’t afraid to ask for advice from technology savvy experts or collaborate with their peers to put their businesses in the best possible position to survive and grow their businesses.
Laurie Benson is CEO of Inacom Information Systems.