The past couple of years have been tough for almost every business sector. Very few organisations have been able to coast through the global recession, whether they have a retail operation with reduced disposable income or operate in a major supply chain to the apparently shrinking public sector opportunity.
One interesting trend has emerged, and it is not industry specific but function specific.
Growth has come from organisations that were restructured early and understood the benefits of IT. Our growth as a dedicated consultancy and technical support during the last five years has been driven purely by organisations that put IT at the forefront of their business strategy.
The retail market has had to cope with the sharpest recession, and with a long list of brand casualties demonstrating just how tough it has been. However, selected retailers have flourished during the recession, and it is their commitment to e-commerce and developing an intuitive online presence which has driven this success.
In the services sector, the organisations that have upgraded their communications and CRM, implemented new innovations for their customers, and been able to improve efficiency through automating processes have managed to grow despite the economic climate.
Even in the B2B market, those organisations that have challenged the way they do business and opted for new service delivery through enhanced technology have been the focus of major good news stories.
For those businesses, one obvious distinction has been the understanding that IT needs a seat at boardroom level in the decision-making process.
For far too long, IT has sat under the umbrella of the finance director, purely because it is considered a cost centre that needs to be controlled and managed financially at a strategic level.
The organisations that have made great leaps forward over the past five years have taken a very different view. IT is no longer a cost centre needing to be reined in, but one of the most significant business development tools.
IT is at the forefront of change, and harnessing technology has for many been the catalyst to real growth during very challenging times.
It is not surprising, though, that IT sits down the ladder in terms of senior positions within an organisation. IT by its nature is still a fairly immature part of all businesses.
Only 30 years ago, most SMBs operated with little or no IT infrastructure at all and during the evolution of business IT, it got its reputation as a cost centre, rather than a business development tool.
We work with major technology providers and rely on their next-generation thinking and solutions to provide us with the materials needed to change the business model for many organisations.
It is only when this new power being harnessed by the IT team is recognised that businesses can really enhance the opportunity technology now represents.
This is still a young industry, and bringing an IT director to the top table is the way forward.
The end of the recession will bring increased opportunities for growth, which will be welcomed by everyone. The businesses with an IT director operating at strategic board level are much more likely to have a positive future.
The traditional business structure needs to be dismantled, and the use of IT as a driver of business change needs to be encouraged.
IT should not sit beneath the finance function, and we will constantly encourage the elevation of IT as a strategic part of any business strategy, irrespective of sector or client base.
Our experience in recent years has been about supporting businesses through change, and working with a real commercial focus.
Our recommendations can enhance the business offer, create real efficiency and encourage growth and acquisition of new customers. Too often the use of IT to save time and money or assist in business development is forgotten, because at a strategic level this is not articulated.
IT is an investment, not a cost, and we have many successful partners who have traded strongly throughout the past five years simply because they had the vision to put IT in its rightful place, at the centre of the organisation's strategic plan.
David McPherson is managing and technical director of Aegis IT
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