it director

Today I wore a suit. That is probably a strange start to a blog, but as part of my Directorial duties it occasionally happens – I much prefer being at the coal face of a business, being more hands-on and practical but as I do have to order extra-long business cards for my qualifications and accreditations, sometimes I have to remove the geek-chic and don the suit.

That sentiment, despite how it appears wasn’t a shameless self-promotion or boast, it’s actually a clever piece of language that is supposed to lull fellow directors into a false sense of security and also let you know that I’m also one of you. Despite my collection of t-shirts that say “Meh.” “I read your email,” and “There are 10 types of people in the world: Those who understand binary, and those who don’t…” I am actually a company director and as such have the same fiduciary duties of anyone else who assumes that role…

For me it’s not just a role that is a badge or status symbol, it is a duty by law to look after the company. Call me old school and a bit soppy, but a business only has its directors to look after its interests much like a baby only has its parents.

We all know it’s been tough times over the past several years and as directors, we’ve saved money, rationalised and put things off as much as we possibly can. I had a conversation today, where I was explaining that most Managing Directors and Finance Directors in medium sized companies have put off spending that much and for that long that they’re actually actively avoiding their IT Manager or even IT Director due to the embarrassment which is slowly becoming mutual contempt. In what we’ve called the year of the IT manager, this is a big problem.

With under-spending and everyone, that is not just IT managers under absolute pressure to continue to keep the business running without capital expenditure certain things have been happening. There are a number of technologies that have been accelerated due to this pressure:

  • Cloud computing, okay, probably a fairly intangible concept for when I have donned my suit, but essentially this is letting someone else manage and implement certain services. Email is a good example, Microsoft Office 365 allows for cloud hosting of Exchange email servers, it goes from being an upfront capital expenditure for licenses, hardware and implementation to a subscription based price model on an almost a pay-per-use model.
  • VDI, despite sounding as if it’s some embarrassing illness from Channel 4’s TV programme, virtual desktop is actually recentralising computing power back into the datacentre or server room. This is almost like the good old days when you had a mainframe and all the terminals in the company were relatively dumb. Obviously this has a higher up-front cost, because the hardware in the server room is beefier, but it means that old desktops can be used and even iPads, dumb terminals and other devices can be used on the desk but the company applications and Windows 7 (or other) interface is still presented to the user. The benefits to the company are that it’s easier to manage, you need less IT support staff and you can prolong the life of desktop hardware and buy cheaper hardware in the future. VDI can also be done in a cloud computing scenario too, with another company doing this for a monthly fee for you.

Directors need to know when their IT Manager has reached the limit of his capability in order to continue running their old IT systems (aka flogging a dead horse, in many cases) unfortunately as good as many of us IT professionals are, we simply cannot make components last longer than they can do. We also cannot conjure-up system resources and perform miracles when tasked with implementing a desperately needed new piece of software for a customer requirement on hardware that is absolutely at limit and just about coping with failures.

Next time you feel that your IT Manager is avoiding you, maybe you should ask if they have VDI… well maybe don’t phrase it like that!… perhaps ask whether VDI could save your company money and instead of paying for a full server and desktop refresh there may be some net shavings to be had. It may get your IT manager moving forward, keep them enthused about the work and ultimately speed up the business away from systems that are struggling to cope. You could also try asking whether the cloud could save money on capital expenditure, helping projects get underway but not necessarily in a way that even your IT Manager had originally envisaged.

Maybe it is time to start thinking about compromise rather than avoiding the problem… or problem individual! Some important things to remember are:

  • There are technologies that can avoid a big companywide desktop and server refresh such as VDI that will mean a larger spend in the datacentre, however significantly less spend on IT staff, support and on the desktop – which will also enable the very recent buzzword, BYOD – Bring Your Own Device. It will allow iPads to work like Windows PC’s and have access to all the usual company information.
  • More and more technologies are shifting to datacentres and becoming more IT oriented. Telephone systems or ‘Unified Communications’ as some call it, are now just software running on servers in a datacentre. Telephony therefore is just seen as an application, therefore a telephone is just like a computer in that it is just there to talk back to a server in order to give you a dial tone. With Unified Communications, you can achieve the same as a telephone with obviously a telephone, application on a mobile phone or PC. As long as you’re connected to the network either in a company office or over the internet, you can get your calls anywhere. This increases flexibility and reduces cost and promotes homeworking.
  • Well in actual fact, homeworking scares a lot of Directors – but again, if your employees are connected to VDI and your phone system at home you’re actually very well aware of what they’re up to!

I guess the most important take-away from this article to remember is that there have been significant changes in IT over the recession, and whilst you and your IT manager have been avoiding each other, things have changed, got cheaper and the way that you’ll tackle a problem now would be very different from when you originally thought the IT proposal that was too expensive three years ago. Don’t let this problem become the elephant in the room – there are solutions.

Consider this article a bit of IT Manager and Director marriage counselling – and should you need help, then we’re here to give you further advice.