it and business

Do you remember the good old days of the Information Technology? Nope, me neither, what it must have been to work in an era when computers were the size of rooms and you had to have a certain type of shirt to work with them and a pocket protector for your pens.

In the early days of computing, any use of computers in business was all about automation, efficiency making and generally making the world a better place. Oh, and as an IT Manager (or equivalent) back in the day you had a Computer Science or Electronic Engineering degree or you wouldn’t be able to switch the things on…

Let’s fast forward to when I started in IT, 14.4k modems were the norm, email was a ‘gimmick’ in fact I remember when I first went contracting I put email systems in for businesses because they had it as part of Small Business Server and they didn’t want to use it – they didn’t want staff ‘messing about’! These days if email is down for a nano-second the first whipping boy in the queue is the IT guy. I see the irony working with people I’ve worked with for years giving me a hard time about emails being down when they actively were against using them when they were introduced.

Just as things like email, remote working, mobile computing were gimmicks – they’re all now taken for granted. I tell you what’s also taken for granted – the IT Department.

Thinking back to our forefathers (foregeeks) they were senior managers within an organisation, allowed to sit around the board room table and offer their input into how companies should be managed and made more efficient. We have certainly lost something over the last decade.

I remember as an IT Manager, frantically searching through my various options for different problems, I looked at the best, the most expensive, the most cost effective and the most innovative. Half the time as I knew the company was fairly tight with cash, I went for solutions that could either pay back over a period or went out of my way to find something new and cheap – in the case of telecommunications it often backfired on me.

I’ve been beaten up over the years for going out and buying business grade machines from HP and Dell that cost three times more than the ones in Currys. Even though I needed a standard build image to reduce the maintenance and installation time – the people who don’t know about IT just think they can throw mud. Let’s put aside for a minute that the business grade machines lasted up to ten years in some cases!

So whether I went out of my way to buy something that I could prove would make us more efficient and pay back its investment over three years, or whether I bought cheap ‘rubbish’ – I still ended up with the same criticism from the Directors that I spent too much of the company’s money.

During the recession I’ve found working with many of Unleashed’s customers that I was not alone – indeed, they have had a harder time than me, necessary upgrades, things they could do to make things better or even just the necessary expenditure to keep things like emails running have been left.

I’ve also seen a rather disturbing trend for IT and the rest of the organisation to become disconnected – things like ITIL, best practices and outsourcing have drove even more wedges between the two. I hear IT guys using phrases like ‘that’s for the business to decide’ and whilst I know it’s incredibly wrong, I sympathise with them – they’ve spent years not being heard or asked their honest opinion, so now they just don’t give it.

We’re in a sad world where IT is just seen as an expensive commodity item – businesses need it, but they don’t really use Information Technology – they just consume it. IT is all about Information, the Technology side is simply there to automate and make things more efficient. A true IT manager worries about how they can make their business more efficient using the tools of their trade – they also do genuinely care about cost benefit too.

My company now works with organisations to make sure this disconnection is tackled and that IT’s status in the business is put back where it should be. We have human performance coaches as well as the usual tools you’d expect of a value added reseller – but most of all we have a bunch of people that have been there.