What are the Top Business Priorities for IT Managers Today?

Very few professions have evolved like IT management has in recent years. Even non-technical directors are waking up to the value of data and systems. It's not surprising, as IT has the capability to deliver huge competitive advantages.

If IT systems were once the heartbeat of a successful business, they’re now the brain and limbs too. Systems are enhancing processes, people, financial control and even sales & marketing.

As an IT manager, where should you be placing your focus? In this article, we examine 4 important areas of change. Without further ado, here are the things you should be focusing on in the coming months.

1. Agility

We don't mean doing yoga at your desk, we mean transforming legacy systems. Although the thought of this may make you want to curl up into a ball and hide under your desk. It doesn't need to be this way.

Deloitte's 2017 Survey of IT Managers highlighted three business priorities for IT:

  • Delivering business growth
  • Enabling better processing performance
  • Controlling costs

Agility is a key driver of all three. Your legacy systems may be restricting your ability to pursue these objectives. It's clearly something you need to confront, but decisions about these are rarely cut and dry.

Take the time to review your working systems, then rank these on their value/importance. The most important systems hold the most potential for efficiency gains.

Don't waltz in and tear down these systems though. Upscale existing systems if it's vital that they're not disrupted or invest in better long-term solutions before you rip existing ones to shreds.

2. Smarter Data Management

If there's one trend to note, it's that data collection is about to ramp up exponentially. If you don't begin collecting data to deliver better insights soon, your competitors may get ahead of you.

58% of IT managers said customers were the main business priority in the Deloitte survey. Customer-centric businesses must find ways to deliver more value to customers. Processing data from the Internet of Everything is key to this.

Collecting more and better data does pose big problems for IT and data analysts though. It may be necessary to collect huge volumes of data, more than can be manually processed. This is where AI may be about to make big strides – and why many data and analytical roles are at risk.

Automating the collection and processing of “big data” is going to be a necessity. To keep ahead of competitors, you may need to make a plan for big data and AI in your organisation.

3. Innovation

IT is no longer considered a utility. It's now essential for growth and everyday business operations. And why IT has become more strategy-oriented.

The issue faced by most IT managers is about allocating resources. Which areas should you focus on improving – process or product? In breakthrough projects or incremental improvement?

Like your systems, focus on areas that will deliver the most value. If your resources are more limited than you'd like, an innovative focus is essential. Incremental improvements to core systems should be your day-to-day focus.

The 70-20-10 rule comes in handy for innovative focus; 70% of your focus on 'hygiene' of key systems. 20% of your focus on big breakthrough projects. 10% on high-risk experimental innovation.

4. Security and Privacy

Given the nature of the other priorities, you would imagine security would be up there in the billing. Yet only 10% of IT managers labelled security as a business priority.

Ofcom has delivered huge fines to organisations failing to protect customer data. These have been huge news stories, so it's important you help change the culture. Lobby for more resources and add security to the agenda of manager meetings. Cite the huge Ofcom fines if necessary.

Senior managers expect security features to be intrinsic within systems. Given the growing complexity of attacks, it's vital that you convince decision-makers to invest in security. Your job - and reputation - may rely upon it.

Conclusion

As the role of IT Management changes, the very indicators of your performance are evolving.

You need to deliver innovation, fresh insights and agility – for the benefit of your organisation and yourself. But knowing where to even begin can be the cause of much concern.

Focus on developing your core systems, incrementally developing these at first. Then investigate new data collection systems and data processing methods. But vital to all these is security – even though it won't get top billing at any managers meeting.

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31 March 2017

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