The IT department has often been perceived as a “cost sink,” or as an entity that’s at least somewhat set apart from the other departments.
Yet, without an IT department, most organizations today would cease to function, so “adding business value” is something IT already does, even if it’s not widely acknowledged.
Technology is supposed to drive efficiency, making business processes more manageable, and helping the organization to scale up effectively. The role of tech is to make employees’ work easier, faster, and less costly to do, and the organization that doesn’t leverage tech adequately can lose its competitive edge. Technology by itself doesn’t deliver business value, but when it’s implemented in a thoughtful, planned manner, it can move the entire organization forward.
The Basics of Driving Business Value With IT
There’s no one “correct” framework for maximizing the business value of IT, but the Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) is one popular framework for adoption. ITIL is focused on the perspective of the user of IT – everyone, in other words – and encourages interaction between the overall business and IT department on a plane of service levels rather than focusing IT as a purely technical provider.
Whether or not your organization’s IT department is measured in terms of revenue, it needs to demonstrate business value. This may be done in terms of cost reductions, meeting increased demand for IT services, revenue generated by IT (perhaps as technology resellers), or some combination of these. Every IT department has to promise and deliver reliable and secure IT services for end-users. This sometimes requires learning from mistakes. But those mistakes are the very things that can help your IT team establish best practices tailored to your organization and its needs.
Standardization and Automation
One popular best practice is standardization, because when IT processes are consistent, documented, and repeatable, end-users are more confident and at ease with them. Furthermore, many consistent, documented, and repeatable processes can be automated, and this can add considerable business value by improving efficiency of IT resources. Automation cuts down on time spent deploying and managing patches by an average of 50%, and can cut deployment time of operating systems by over two-thirds. Time spent managing virus and spyware can be greatly reduced too.
The Role of the IT Service Desk
A great IT service desk increases actual business value and improves end-user perception of business value.
When your organization’s IT service desk works as a single point of contact for end-users, it’s good for IT’s business value. Having IT help desk software that allows multiple methods for submitting help tickets (like automatic conversion of emails to help tickets, social media submission, or a self-service portal) answers the needs of all end-users. Providing certain tasks as self-service options (like resetting passwords) is great for end-users who want to take care of their own IT needs when possible, yet still leaves open the option of submitting a help ticket for those who want extra help.
An IT service desk integrated with the IT asset management system maximizes efficiency of both, because the service desk workers can see at a glance the specs on a piece of hardware or software that is causing problems rather than having to track this information down. An IT asset management system running a client that automatically detects when new devices connect to the network is essential in a BYOD organization, and makes it much easier for the IT team to stay on top of network security.
The Service Catalog and Visibility of IT Costs
One way IT departments demonstrate their business value is through an IT service catalog. An IT service catalog that is widely adopted and used, and that is maintained and updated regularly demonstrates the partnership between IT and the rest of the organization that makes the organization run efficiently and grow.
Whether the cost of services is shown on the end-user-facing side or not, the use of the service catalog makes it easier for IT to keep track of the value of the services it provides. This is true whether IT services are charged to the departments requesting them, or whether the services are paid for out of an overall IT budget. Typically, the developers of the IT service catalog establish cost models as part of the planning and development of the service catalog
There’s no question that the IT department provides business value, but it’s not always easy to demonstrate that. For many organizations, it’s a matter of shifting perceptions and showing how IT is a full partner in business processes that can positively affect the bottom line. Standardization, automation, use of a great IT service desk and IT asset management program (like that provided by Samanage), and development of an IT service catalog (also a great feature included with Samanage) are ways IT can increase business value and prove itself as a partner in moving the organization forward.