Wednesday, December 21, 2011

IT Is No Longer a Corporate Support Service. Are You Ready?

If you are part of a corporate IT group, chances are you are struggling like I am with the concept that IT is a support service. It used to be taken for granted: our role was to be the implementers and fixers of technology. The implications being that things like budgets were looked at from a pure cost-centered approach. Provide the necessary technology at the lowest cost possible ... more akin to maintenance and facilities roles.

But corporate needs are shifting, often faster than corporate assumptions around the role of IT. Do you find yourself in this situation today? Corporate strategies and the objectives intended to carry out those strategies depend on technologies requiring more creativity and variability than ever before. Take social media as an example. As recently as five years ago, corporate on line presence was defined by a corporate controlled web site and corporate email. Some put in tools for real-time chat for sales and customer service; but the environment was still tightly controlled by the company. IT’s role was that of a relatively static entity to roll-out things. Even “dynamic” content was rolled out as a technology tool. Once programming and design were complete, it was essentially up to business users to make it work. IT was just there to fix it when something broke.

Compare that to online presence today. Social media that companies have little, if any, direct control over have dominated. Within a few years, it will saturate every nook and cranny of our corporate world. Traditional corporate content providers, like marketing, sales, and customer service, are ill prepared to handle the barrage of technological challenges in such an environment. If your company is anything like mine, they are now looking to IT to provide ongoing expertise in managing the corporate online identity. They key here is “ongoing”. The challenges of corporate online identity are constant; not needing an annual or quarterly technology refresh, but often requiring a daily, hourly, or even minute-by-minute refresh.

As old attitudes around the role of IT pervade, it’s easy for an IT department to say, “It’s not my problem. Sounds like a marketing problem to me. We can provide some consulting, but not much else.” But the business expects and NEEDS IT to become hands-on in managing online presence and identity.

Are they wrong? What are we prepared to do about it?