Your people will change your IT, even if you don't!

When it comes to IT, change can seem constant and it occurs in a number of different ways. This continuous adoption of new technology can seem like a big undertaking, as it can be difficult to adapt, but it’s an effort worth making.

Whether or not you make a conscious business decision to embrace these new technologies is, however, in many ways irrelevant. Even if these solutions are not present at work, they are often used in our personal lives. The point is, they’re there, seeping into the world, affecting the way everyone behaves.

Embracing new technologies

Take communication as an example. Many customers tell me that email is one of their number one critical systems. But how many young people do we know that communicate with each other using such an archaic system?

When these young people enter the world of work for the first time, many of them approach email like any other messaging system, in the same chatty, 'stream of thought' type approach. But email in the workplace serves a very different purpose and some employees have to be re-educated to write emails like a ‘proper’ letter. Yet put them in front of a decent instant messaging solution, and they immediately ‘get it’. After all, it’s the technology they’ve grown up with.

What does this mean from a business angle? Depending on how you approach it, maybe everything. Sticking with the example of communication – there’s immediacy to instant group messaging that is sometimes lost in the use of email. By embracing a new technology like this, can you improve communication by making collaboration quicker and easier inside the business? Or indeed with your customers and partners?

Some might say that anyone who can’t grasp email etiquette isn’t the sort of person they want working for them. Maybe so, but the world is changing, people are growing up with smartphones and tablets as their primary exposure to technology. Can you really afford to ignore the way those people use that technology?

Many businesses are realising that this is the path they now have to take. As a fresh wave of people enters the workplace, there are certain technologies that they expect to be present. And if you have technology that allows you to communicate easier in your personal life, why wouldn’t you have this in business?

This extends to all sorts of different areas within the workplace. Whether it’s communicating, sharing files, or working remotely, the mechanisms in place can seem slow and clumsy by comparison to today’s modern approaches.

Herein lies the problem. If the current systems are cumbersome, then that means you might suddenly find yourselves less agile than businesses adopting more modern, smarter ways of working.

In a climate where the buzz around new technologies seems to shift from one solution to another on a weekly basis, it can be difficult to know what to invest in. Businesses are struggling to predict which products and trends will be ‘hits’ and which will be ‘misses.’ For something to be truly successful, it has to be truly beneficial. But who is it beneficial to?

The vital question to ask of new technologies, is who wins when a particular piece of technology is adopted – or indeed, not adopted?

Benefiting your business

Virtualisation has become a normal part of server operations, but VDI? Not so much. Mobile computing is bigger than ever, but tablets never became 100 per cent pervasive. Netbooks were earmarked by many as the future of productivity but have since fallen by the wayside.

For those making a living in the IT arena, the question always comes back to whether new technology will directly benefit the business, or help you become a benefit to the business. In an ideal world it would enable both. At the very least it should enable one.

Consider what direction a startup might take with IT. Would they buy a server to run their business, or would they look to cloud providers? Would they only roll out email, or would they also compliment it with IM and collaborative tools?

These technologies can be deployed within established business too. The challenge lies, however, with implementing the cultural change needed to embrace these technologies so they benefit all. But really, this is merely a question of investing in people. You can’t just stick technology in front of people and expect the whole business, and the individuals within, to magically become more productive. Yet time after time, this understanding is lost on frustrated managers – who quickly lose sight of the promised productivity benefits and instead begin to focus on the cost of investment.

Investing in IT management

This is where IT managers come in to play. Implementation and maintenance of new technologies falls within their remit, as does staff training. And this isn’t a one-off job. Especially as organisations often pay for products via a subscription, month after month.

Take cloud computing, for example, where SaaS providers are constantly upgrading their products. You may well have just got used to the software’s user interface only to find that one day a whole raft of changes have been made and everything looks completely different. The IT manager is there to provide the support necessary in this scenario. If you are going to invest in the technology, you are also going to want to ensure you exploit it to its fullest potential.

The complaint that used to go out from businesses was that people weren’t leaving school with sufficient literacy in IT. Now, people are coming into the workplace with literacy in IT systems that you might not even have considered. As it has become easier to deploy new technology, however, rolling out new solutions is not the challenge. It is whether your organisation is able to quickly adapt and embrace change.

Mark Lomas, IT consultant, Icomm Technologies

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