When IT Falters, So Does the Company
In the old days, when business technologies were initially being implemented to replace manual procedures, when computers went down—which they often did—the original manual procedures were there to save the day.
Of course, no one liked the idea of returning to this pencil-and-paper alternative, but it was doable because most of the people in the workforce had performed these manual tasks on a daily basis prior to the advent of computerization. Also, the volumes were smaller, thus allowing this manual backup to be inconvenient, yet workable.
In today’s world, except for the most rudimentary tasks, such as processing credit cards, the option of implementing manual procedures is not feasible. The work volumes are too high, the workforce is no longer accustomed to performing manual workarounds, and very little, if any, time is spent creating or updating the types of manual procedures not seen since the 1970s.
This means that companies of even modest scale would be under great stress to continue business operations without its existing computers in place. From an IT perspective, this means that IT operations and its staff are as crucial to company success as the power that lights the buildings and the heat that warms the workspaces.
From a company’s perspective, this implication and newfound business phenomenon is both a blessing and a curse. On the upside, computerization has dramatically increased employee productivity and reduced the cost of automation. On the downside, like it or not, the company cannot run without it.
CIOs and other senior IT executives understand that they hold their company’s well-being in their hands and on their disk drives. Also, given the importance and difficulty of protecting company data, IT also has become the guardians of corporate information and the protectors of corporate assets. The issue is that too many non-IT executives consider IT to be a necessary evil or simply a required internal background function they don’t understand, rather than as a key business partner that powers most, if not all, of the business functions within the enterprise.
There is an old joke that a squirrel is a rat with a good public relations agent. It’s time that IT takes a lesson from our little nut-gathering friends and publicizes the IT function as the true internal business partner it deserves to be.
As a heart pumps blood to all parts of the body, IT pumps, collects, stores, and distributes data to all parts of the enterprise. As many successful companies have found, embracing the IT function as the strategic corporate asset it has become allows the organization to truly profit from its IT expenditures.