How IT Pros Can Keep Their Organization on the Cutting Edge

By improving technical skills and building professional skills like communication and collaboration, IT pros can keep their companies from getting left in the dust.

Female IT pro working on a presentationOver the past several years, one of the most common phrases I’ve heard tossed around in IT discussions is “every company is a tech company.” This phrase can be a bit misleading. Way back in the IT Industry Outlook 2020, we talked about how applying technology doesn’t necessarily change the underlying business fundamentals, whether the business is real estate, hospitality, transportation, etc. But the truth behind this saying is that technology is being used more than ever before to meet business outcomes.

In this environment, the nature of technology adoption has shifted. When technology was a less critical ingredient, it was more reasonable for companies to have slower adoption. Smaller companies didn’t always have the resources for dedicated technology focus, and certain industries viewed technology as a lower priority. Today, though, it’s not safe to sit on the sidelines. A cautious approach to technology can open the door for disruption, which can change fortunes almost overnight.

Recent data from CompTIA research sheds some light on the characteristics of digital organizations. The survey covered both IT professionals and business professionals, and most people placed their company into one of three buckets:

  • 18% of people rated their company as cutting edge
  • 37% felt their company was above average in technology adoption
  • 39% classified their company as an average adopter of technology

Just a small handful thought their company was lagging behind. When asked what drove the company rating, there were several items that should give IT pros food for thought.

Characteristics of Digital Leaders

For those who felt their company was already on the cutting edge, three trends stood out.

  • The ability to identify and quickly implement innovations. As technology is changing more quickly, it is also becoming more complex. Companies need to keep their eye on the horizon for new tech trends, and many businesses have created formal or informal groups where employees evaluate emerging technology. Ideally, there would be processes in place to take any promising ideas into pilot programs that could eventually lead to operational models. IT teams can take the lead on driving these groups and building these processes.
  • A tech-savvy workforce. When technology is integrated into operations, it’s also used by more people throughout the organization. Thanks to smartphones and a strong consumer technology market, workers have become more comfortable using technology and solving their own problems. This doesn’t remove the need for tech support, though. In fact, companies are continuing to invest in the help desk to make sure that any technical hiccups don’t have a big impact on productivity.
  • Reliability of technology. Growing tech savvy can lead to high expectations, like the idea that business systems never go down. Hopefully the semi-regular outages from major cloud providers help drive home the message that perfect uptime is impossible. But there are also steps that IT pros can take to lower the probability of downtime and plan workarounds when things do crash. Developing a risk analysis framework and presenting a range of mitigation options can go a long way in building trust.

Areas for Potential Growth

For any company trying to improve their approach to technology, a few key focus areas can really move the needle.

  • Insufficient spending on technology. This is probably the toughest nut to crack. For a long time, IT was expected to do more with the same budget, and this kinda sorta worked because of the way technology capabilities improve over time. However, keeping the budget flat is not going to drive growth. IT pros should always be looking for ways to show how strategic investment can help the bottom line.
  • Insufficient skills among technical staff. Whether a company is already on the cutting edge or trying to get there, skills are essential. The headlines tend to scream about new skills like blockchain, machine learning or data science. These are all great skills to build, but there is also a lot of benefit in improving foundational skills, like networking, cybersecurity or data analytics.
  • Lack of an experimental mindset. Bringing things full circle, the final thing that makes people feel like their company only has average adoption is the same thing that creates a sense of being on the cutting edge. Changing culture can be a long-term project but finding new ways to bring forward emerging technology is a good way to start shifting the mindset toward innovation.

Another phrase that’s been tossed around quite a bit is “digital transformation.” This can be a fuzzy concept, but it points at the same truth as the first phrase. Technology is changing the way businesses run, and having an agile approach to new adoption is a big part of the new world order.

By improving technical skills and building durable skills like communication and collaboration, IT professionals can keep their companies from getting left in the dust.

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