How can an IT Pro make a tangible business impact?

Alan Richards

The following post was contributed by Alan Richards, Senior Consultant at Foundation SP and SharePoint MVP.

Business and IT are inextricably linked, there is no denying the fact and if that’s the case then the IT Professional has a big part to play in the success of the business.

I am employed as Senior Consultant at Foundation SP which means I get dropped into a lot of different businesses who are looking to maximise their use of IT to benefit the business as a whole, but what skills do I have that means I can make a difference to the business?

Let me first give you an insight into my career, I have worked for 19 years in IT with 18 of those spent in education and the last year working for an IT Consultancy. I have various Microsoft certifications and for the last 3 years I’ve been proud to be a Microsoft MVP in the SharePoint discipline. So I think my IT skills are OK but how is that going to make an impact in a business environment apart from the obvious of keeping everything running, which let’s face it just costs the business money, it doesn’t actually generate income.

But can IT generate money for a business, or more pointedly can it generate tangible, account auditing income? To be honest I don’t think so. What IT can do is ensure that the people in a business who do generate income have the tools to be able to generate that income and that is where an IT Professional needs some additional skills on top of the usual ‘IT ones’.

When I go into businesses I am not being brought in because my skills are any better than their in-house IT team, it’s because I bring a different skillset, a skillset that to an extent has nothing at all to do with my IT skills. The skillset I bring is more about being able to understand the business’s needs, what it wants to achieve in both the short and long term. These skills are more about listening to the people in the business, both the directors but more importantly the people at the ‘coal face’ because, let’s face it, the directors can shape a business but it’s the workers who will generate the income, so if you make life easy for them then the business will thrive.

So let’s assume you’re an IT Professional who has the required skills and you have listened to all sections of the business to understand their needs and you discover a set of technologies that will massively increase the profits imagefor the business but it’s going to bring quite a bit of change. It’s a phrase that is used a lot but ‘change management’ is one of the skills that is often overlooked, but is probably one of the most important. Any IT Professional can make changes, introduce new technologies but the IT Professional that can bring the business along as they make the changes will be the most successful. No one likes change, that’s a fact, so as an IT Professional you need to ensure that the change is managed, that users feel happy with the change, that they understand the reasons for the change and they can see the long term benefits. If you manage all that then not only will the business flourish but you will also benefit from happy users.

Change management can come in many forms, but at its core is communication. An IT Professionals ability to communicate is core to success. My role when I work with companies is normally to understand the business and recommend ways to improve processes or new technologies that will improve efficiency and the ability of users to carry out their duties easier and in some cases remotely. After the business directors have bought into the ideas the next and most important job is to ensure the workforce buy in as well, without that buy in nothing will ever improve. You can introduce as much new technology as you like but if you don’t communicate the change effectively then the users will become unhappy, disenfranchised and ultimately less effective for the business.

The title of this article asked about the skills needed to make a tangible impact on a business, for me the core skill outside of the obvious IT skillset has to be communication, which hopefully the text above illustrates. If you get communication right, whether it be by email, training or workshop then the rest such as change management will follow.

Do you agree with Alan that the ability to adapt to change is one of the most prominent skills in our environment? What other impactful skills should be included? Let us know in the comments section or via @technetuk.

Comments (5)

  1. Anonymous says:

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  2. Nick Johnson says:

    Great article; well worth pointing out the business facing role that is increasingly needed within technology departments!

    Just to put my spin on this, I've been in several situations as a technology representative where the executive layer wishes to make a change and then effectively uses the BA or technical SME to enforce it to the coal face. It's a very poisonous idea and leaves
    few people in a happy place (in fact in my experience it can often totally undermine what on the face of it is a very good, worthwhile project and leave you in a worse situation than you would've had if you left things alone).

    The task for the IT professional here is to ensure that the key stakeholders know who they are and accept and sufficiently act upon their responsibilities – they are the business leaders, so they should lead the business, not delegate responsibility to someone
    from outside of their core organisation. The technical rep can certainly help with this in terms of elucidating the expected benefits, whether they are efficiency, insights, revenue or savings, but the sponsor and business owners must be the ones to convey
    that message to their staff. This means that you must be able to communicate effectively at the senior level (and sometimes make senior people do what they perceive to be the unpleasant things!)

  3. Josh Hunt says:

    Great article!

    IT and business certainly are inextricably linked and IT needs to be represented when strategic decisions are made. Things are changing in the right direction but there is still a long way to go. In my opinion, IT can make a big tangible impact purely through
    efficiency and evolution. Businesses need to transform with the markets, and having an IT resource that can adapt and flexibly approach changes in industry will provide a considerable competitive advantage.