Why You Might Not Need An IT Department Anymore
While the word “cloud” is horribly overused in business today, cloud computing has changed everything, including how you staff your IT department — assuming you even have one anymore. In fact, based on my experience, small businesses figured out long ago that modern technology tools require few, if any, IT staff. Look at the business functions of any small company (let’s consider businesses with fewer than 500 employees) and the software needed to support them. You would be hard-pressed to identify a valid need for full-time IT staff to configure or administer those solutions to keep the business running.
Now, mid-size organizations have also recognized they can configure and run business systems with very few full-time IT staff — and they can do it quite effectively. From ERP to CRM to accounting and finance, capable business users can support modern systems. No more waiting on IT to specify and configure operating systems, program applications and spend time constantly tweaking apps to meet business needs.
Today, an organization can put together a cross-functional team of power users and train them to configure a system and integrate single sign-on capabilities to deliver a secure business system in hours, days or maybe weeks if the organization’s complexities require special functionality. In fact, we’ve seen fairly complex organizations, including city governments and high-volume consumer packaged goods companies, run without any full-time IT resources; although, in some cases, they still rely on managed service providers to support desktop computers, since those devices seem to be the new weak link in an otherwise strong chain of business systems.
Of course, this has all been made possible because the need for traditional servers, which became critical components of IT infrastructure in the 1990s, has been all but eliminated — a watershed event made possible by the “everything-as-a-service” phenomenon. In fact, there are very few reasons most companies couldn’t retire their in-house servers posthaste, because they can easily buy and quickly ramp up effective “as-a-service” solutions for collaboration (email, calendar and file storage), accounting, helpdesk, ERP and many other needs.
Before jumping into the deep end, however, many aspects bear consideration: What and who will govern this new world sans IT? What are the most effective policies, and who will administer them? Who will configure and administer the systems when somebody joins or leaves your company?
Staffing models must change to include a “business analyst and implementation specialist” role (or something similar) for people who can analyze and understand business requirements and determine how to meet them by configuring various software-as-a-service platforms. Are these employees part of a “new IT” organization? Or are they embedded in the business units? Each organization will need to decide.
Consulting and service organizations also need to evolve to understand how to design strategies and implement solutions that meet the business needs by gluing together service-based solutions with resilient integration capabilities and can be monitored and maintained by business users without requiring specialized personnel.
These are solvable challenges that many, if not all, capable organizations can start addressing today. Without an IT department, will we all have to become a bit more tech-savvy? Sure. Do we have to take responsibility for learning more about what makes our businesses run? Yes. But do we need to be beholden to an antiquated model of dependency on others when there are now more efficient, effective ways to get things done? No.
If the pandemic has taught us anything about modern business, it’s that remote work is not only possible, it can be very efficient. And what we truly need from an infrastructure standpoint isn’t all that much. Think about how many organizations had not heard of Zoom at the beginning of 2020 who now can’t imagine a day without “Zooming” into a virtual meeting. Look back on how many organizations quickly pivoted to tools like Google Drive, Dropbox, Box, Microsoft Teams and SharePoint to enable access to critical files locked inside servers behind slow, overwhelmed virtual private networks, which now seem irrelevant. And consider how many organizations are rethinking their entire approach to corporate offices and what needs to be in those offices if, and when, their workforces return to them.
It’s a new era. Whether you want to completely outsource IT or are simply looking for ways to improve your organization’s effectiveness using the wealth of service-based solutions available today, keep in mind that off-the-shelf tools are pre-configured to provide common capabilities that work for most businesses. They rarely, however, meet all of a specific organization’s requirements. While understanding your business requirements and processes has always been the first step in successful technology projects, you must also understand what can bend to the off-the-shelf system and how to make it work for your organization.
Making sure you choose solutions wisely based on your business requirements is critical to maximizing your return on investment. And when you absolutely can’t find a solution that works for your organization’s needs, customizations, maybe even in the form of easy-to-implement low- and no-code options can help you meet your challenges head-on.
This article was originally posted on Forbes.com