Practically every business depends on information technology (IT) services for survival, but few people truly understand the intricacies of the field. In fact, IT specialists wear many hats, far more than they often receive credit for.
While the role varies from business to business and industry to industry, there usually are 6 critical business functions for which IT is absolutely fundamental.
This role should come as no surprise to professionals in all sectors, many of whom routinely turn to their IT staff for support. Support, of course, is an umbrella term for a huge range of services. Your specialists will perform upgrades and routine maintenance as needed, as well as help individuals with any problems they are having with their technology and technological systems, from computers to phone lines.
This might entail fixing broken or buggy software, educating users on how to properly access and utilize their systems and tools, implementing business- or department-wide overhauls, and more.
In larger organizations, IT often has its own help desk that addresses questions and complaints of individual users and deploys personnel as needed. A help desk also allows the IT department to prioritize different issues that emerge and address them in order of importance.
In this role, IT is truly a means of support in that they not only serve to aid their clients but also play a behind-the-scenes role. Naturally, that doesn’t make them any less important. They are truly critical to the operations of an organization. The fact that users are frequently unaware of how much they do is a sign that operations are running smoothly.
2. Data Management and Governance
Today’s businesses generate an enormous amount of data. This information can be incredibly useful to organizations in improving and advancing their strategies and objectives, but it needs to be in a digestible, comprehensive format. A fast-growing role for IT is that of data management and governance.
IT teams devise plans for storing data through databases and other repositories. They also build means for these repositories to sort and perform analyses on the data, offering meaningful insights — ones that are comprehensible to and actionable for laypeople. Moreover, IT plays a vital role in helping employees access the data they need on an as-needed basis.
Another way IT plays an integral role in data management is by protecting data from falling into the wrong hands, which could be disastrous to any organization.
Above all else, perhaps, IT is about building and maintaining a company’s infrastructure. Along with the business’s management and critical departments, IT plays a fundamental role in ensuring that the organization operates successfully.
IT sets up the technological foundation of a business, selecting and implementing its structure. Various components include hardware — computers, telephone systems, network devices, printers, scanners, and circuits, to name a few — and software encompasses the vital programs people use regularly, such as Microsoft Office and Adobe Creative Cloud.
The IT department also assesses the needs of a company and makes recommendations as needed for various programs and equipment for management to purchase in order to keep the organization running smoothly. At times, they might suggest upgrades to make the business more successful and efficient.
Budgeting, too, is an integral part of the process. An IT manager or director will work with the company’s management to devise a budget plan that addresses critical needs in a cost-effective way.
As you know, communication is vital to every business, no matter its type. In our digital world, much of this communication now takes place virtually, whether your business is operating remotely or in an office setting.
Your IT team plays a critical role in establishing systems for communication. They will install email clients like Outlook, recommend platforms for video-conferencing such as Zoom, and establish methods of collaboration such as project-management tools and chat platforms like Slack.
But it’s not just about implementing existing software. IT teams also innovate, finding ways in which businesses can improve their communications systems. This might involve devising new platforms for internal use to help colleagues more efficiently and effectively communicate with one another, such as a chat system unique to your specific industry.
We touched on cybersecurity above, but it bears repeating: this is critical for your organization. This goes beyond data protection, although this is a vital step. IT specialists will work to identify vulnerabilities within every one of your technological systems, including all software and hardware, any of which could be infected by malware or penetrated by hackers and cyber criminals without proper protections in place.
Cybersecurity is an essential concept for organizations of all types and sizes because, without it, organizations are at risk not only for the attacks themselves but also the destruction of their reputations. Some IT professionals even specialize in cybersecurity or particular subsets of cybersecurity, such as network security. Your IT team head might suggest hiring a specialist to further protect your organization from harm.
6. Supplementary Programs and Services
Beyond these 5 critical functions, IT is also responsible for implementing additional programs and services that might be unique to or necessary for your particular organization. For example, they might suggest instituting specific software for your marketing department to use, or advise implementing budgeting software that will help your accounting and bookkeeping teams.
They could even propose creating new platforms and applications that will make your organization even better from scratch, streamlining and fundamentally improving operations.
The skills and expertise of IT specialists shouldn’t be underestimated. Although they are sometimes overlooked, these professionals play an invaluable role in any type of organization, helping them tackle challenges and advancing their missions, even from behind the scenes.