In 2020, the IT manager has moved into the center of business operations. Necessity is the mother of invention, and with the pandemic leading to mass remote working, IT managers have played an integral role in keeping us connected and safer using technology both new and old.
The days of the IT manager working from the side-lines is over. Whilst day to day service delivery is important, today’s IT manager must be proactive and should play a central role in realizing a business’s strategic potential while delivering its competitive advantage.
With new responsibility comes new challenges – here are the top ten those in charge face today:
1. Evolving cybersecurity threats
Almost 91 percent of enterprises globally have reported an increase in cyber-attacks following the move to remote working, according to a survey by VMware Carbon Black. In addition, 80 percent reported an increase in the sophistication of the attacks. If a threat is successful, the financial, reputational and operational risks cannot be overstated, and businesses can’t afford to take the threats lightly.
The vast and rapidly developing nature of cyber-security, coupled with a heavy day-to-day workload, means it can be difficult for IT Managers to keep up with all the latest threats. To address this challenge, they should consider deploying advanced technologies and solutions such as SIEM and MDR, to help automate breach detection and prevention where possible.
2. Skills gap
The pace of innovation, the changing threat landscape and the recognition of tech’s key role in business is creating a significant gap in the skillset needed to manage modern IT. According to research by the UK government, two-thirds of organizations have reported a shortage of skilled staff with the ability to manage cyber threats. But without action, gaps grow, which means lower productivity, fewer sales, and a lack of innovation to name a few.
This lack of skilled professionals in areas like cyber-security can make building and retaining a full internal IT team prohibitively expensive. In this case, co-sourcing can help businesses access the specific skills and experience they need on a cost-effective, flexible basis.
When approaching the board to secure budget for training, IT Managers must ensure they speak in commercial terms. They need to clearly communicate and demonstrate the business benefits of additional training for technical employees or extra resources.
3. Cloud computing
The global cloud market grew by 33 percent in 2020’s third quarter, in large part as a result of the changing world of work. The benefits of flexibility and scalability are great, but IT managers must be involved in the decision-making process from the outset to prevent budget waste and poor decision making, particularly around configurations and licensing.
For those already operating in the cloud and considering new services, it’s essential to consider security across the spectrum. The best option would be a cross-platform, cloud-agnostic security solution which ensures complete enterprise security, regardless of location.
4. Digital transformation
Digital transformation often bounces off senior leadership’s ears as a buzzword deemed too complex, vague, or expensive to commit to. However, gaining a competitive advantage in 2021 means that IT managers must focus their efforts in aligning IT projects to wider business and departmental strategies. The challenge for IT managers lies in driving forward the behavioural change so that digital transformation and change is the norm and aligned to all operations within a business.
Solutions can sometimes create new challenges. This is the case for businesses considering out- or co-sourcing work for skills not available internally. While this may be necessary to manage skills gaps, IT managers must manage the concerns around reliability, accountability, and security.
Going forward, managers must have a strict assessment process in place to control this important investment, while also seeking a real partnership with the outsourcing operations. The days of win-lose relationships are over, well, at least over for those seeking to really drive their operations and the wider business forward.
6. New technologies
New, shiny technology which catches the eye of board members might not always be the best solution to a real or perceived business problem or area of advantage. It’s all too easy to get swept up with thinking the business is missing out, but this is the type of spend that creates risk and leads to relationship breakdowns between IT and other departments.
Therefore, it’s crucial that IT managers advocate for a seat at the table and be the voice of reason when thinking about such investments. They must use their skills and expertise to address this challenge and guide the business towards effective investment, instead of impulse buys that do little to support longer-term strategies.
7. Asset & data management
The more devices introduced into the workplace, the more monitoring, maintenance and security risks there are to control. This scaled dramatically through Covid as organizations moved to agile working en-masse. Information governance programs and mobile device management systems are crucial for managing assets and risk.
8. Hiring & retaining talent
A skills shortage in IT creates fierce competition for attracting suitable candidates, which can make it particularly difficult for mid-sized businesses to retain their technical talent. It’s not just a higher salary which can tempt IT pros away, but workplace benefits like flexibility, the opportunity to upskill and more manageable workloads.
For in-demand areas, mid-market businesses will likely find it difficult to offer the work, environment and salary required to retain an expert with a niche skillset. Instead, consider what technical and strategic skills you really need to have in-house and which you could access via outsourcing or co-sourcing, for example. Remote working has made the market for this is more global than ever before.
9. Mobile device management (MDM)
The rise of homeworking has increased the use of personal and corporate devices, which can cause serious issues for IT managers. While deploying a BYOD Policy may be seen as a cost-saving measure, it can cause a wealth of security headaches. Malware intrusion, shadow IT, device loss or theft, data leakage and a lack of corporate visibility are just some the issues managers will have to contend because of them.
For a mobile-first workforce, which we’re increasingly likely to see, managers must ensure they have the solutions in place to see, manage and control these devices, and strong security policies – that staff are aware of – to back them up.
10. Business intelligence
Data-driven decision making is invaluable and has the power to completely transform any operation. However, while businesses are generating more data than ever before, most of it is unstructured so it can’t add any real value. Turning it into gold is one of the greatest challenges facing IT pros right now and doing so can provide insight into every part of a business, from customers and operations, through to the wider marketplace.
The challenges faced by IT managers are complex but interconnected. Solutions such as co-sourcing can be applied to issues such as the skills shortage, and still this process creates fresh challenges. All said, what is fundamental to conquering potential IT hiccups in 2021 is that managers are given a voice at the decision-making table. If senior leaders want to unlock the transformative potential of tech during a transformative time, then it’s time to let the IT do the talking.
Robert Rutherford, CEO, QuoStar