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BY: CAROLE O’BRIEN

Whatever a company’s size, sector, or geography IT will always play a major part of its success.

It is the connection between all people, departments across all levels. The last two years have shown that the ability for IT to give the tools, support, and infrastructure to keep business going  through unprecedented times. Time does not stand still and as the new year starts, we take stock of our top five considerations in IT strategy plans. The one common thread across all five topics is  that IT does not stand alone it has to be part of every business decision, every strategy, and every future development, and be integral to every department.

HYBRID WORK MODEL – RETAIN NEWFOUND AGILITY AND OPTIMISE HYBRID WORK CULTURE

The last two years has meant great changes to the working environment as we knew it. Bouncing between office working, home working and a combination of both, hybrid working is here to stay  for the foreseeable future, if not permanently. 2022 is the year to build on the flexibility that hybrid working brings and to optimise its potential.

Expecting any approach that was put together  quickly to respond to the pandemic will not be suffice for the coming years. The business and IT strategy need to be fully aligned to gain the greatest potential and optimise the workflow, along  with enhancing the end user and customer experience. Business leaders will need to adapt to find ways to sustain a company culture where teams, individuals and customers all feel engaged and  valued even if much of the contact is through a screen.

Data driven diagnostics are the first step in seeing any probable gaps. What has worked and what has not, this would include, all elements of  IT from infrastructure, end-user compute, software, services, and process. What difficulties have people had, how have they felt, emotions of situations are a powerful tool when recorded correctly.  What is your business strategy for work placement in the coming year? Every business will have had a different experience but having data to assist will be vital to focus on priorities  within the strategy.

By providing a digital environment and services that aligns to business and end-user needs along with consideration to economics and the wider environment, it has the great potential to  maximise every individual and to drive growth for the future.

CYBERSECURITY-STRENGTHEN YOUR POSITION
Company data is the golden egg, and it needs be protected. Security must be a priority on any business and IT strategy throughout 2022 and beyond. Recent surveys from Gartner and PWC show  that around 50% of companies are increasing their cybersecurity budgets for the coming year. The main objective in any security strategy is to ensure that it is being spent in the right places. As the workplace has changed so the cyber threats evolve to take best advantage to the new environment.

Strategies must now adapt to a new calibre of threat to avoid operational disruption and reputational damage. In response to the growing threats companies without its own cybersecurity teams are looking externally for 3rd party solutions. There is simply too much at stake to not  have the right expertise working alongside the company. With increased frequency and so many angles of attack, protection and resiliency is crucial. Knowing that a company has a strong defence  although never 100% guaranteed will buy time to detect, respond and recover and reduce or alleviate any damage. Due diligence is always a necessity when selecting the right partner to work with. A partner that understands your needs, can define your requirements, and appreciate your security strategy maturity. As with any partnership or product they can make or break an organisation’s goals.

COMMITTING TO SUSTAINABILITY
The predominant topic of the wellbeing of our planet and its capability to sustain humanity going forward makes sustainability a top priority in a business. Customers and stakeholders alike are  now paying more attention to the ecological footprint of a company and what they are doing to reduce it. IT can be in major player in reducing a company’s CO2 emissions in many ways. IT teams  at companies of all sizes need to understand the obligation and implement sustainability programs for reducing energy consumption, decreasing electronic waste, and achieving carbon neutrality.  In addition, IT departments need to be bringing their expertise to help reduce carbon in other areas of the business.

The opportunity to have IT helping solve a problem will support the business strategy greatly. The energy required to operate data centres, servers, network, storage, end-point devices, and various support services mounts up rapidly, so the starting point is to know what is  used and then to implement the changes to reduce. Identifying green quick wins can be found where implementation or change of process is easily carried out. Longer projects such as moving to greener partners and suppliers will need more planning but knowing when contracts are coming to an end need to be included in any strategy and future policies.

The development of new software  that can assist in the reduction of CO2 has come a long way in the last year. From reducing food waste, delivery schedules to avoid circling, to shared logistics with other local companies and so many more. Using IT to help across the whole business and its processes to reduce emissions is worth the time to investigate. As an added bonus, they can also show a financial benefit swiftly.

DRIVE CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE TO THE NEXT LEVEL
A customer or clients contact and emotional experience with companies has changed over the last few years and the trend is set to continue. It does not matter what sector a business is in, the way  you are viewed externally relies heavily on the experience individuals have with connecting and the ease of doing business with you. From the customer/client’s perspective a personalised  experience that reverberates across all digital channels is paramount for growth. Otherwise known as an omnichannel approach it encapsulates every touch point and should seamlessly work towards the common goal, customer satisfaction.

Research shows companies with the strongest omnichannel customer engagement strategies retain an average of 89% of their customers, in  comparison to 33% with weak strategies. From a business perspective it is the uniting of departments that can bring the biggest impact and part of the IT strategy means having a seat at every  table. Data is vital to drive improvements, and investment in IT needs to include how to turn this data into business insights for real term improvements. In essence you are building an integrated framework for continue improvement, in a shifting environment with the result being critical to your ongoing success. It is not just about changing a process but a culture.

AUTOMATION-DRIVING OPERATIONAL EFFICIENCY
Automation is not to be confused with making people redundant but to enhance an employee’s, customer and companies experience by increasing productivity, simplifying, and accelerating  processes, and eliminating errors. By removing repetitive tasks, it enables personnel to grow, to focus on their work priorities and engage in the growth of the business. Technology implementation  is only part of automation, to ensure the best results and right solution in the right places, a deep delve and understanding of the work process is required. By identifying which  steps are necessary, where bottlenecks exist, and whether the process can adjust to new requirements as they evolve, is first stage the vision of what is possible can be realized.

Many vendors are offering flexible and scalable solutions that could be deployed as a service, on the cloud, at affordable prices. The knowledge, combined with automation technologies, is how a business can move from simple process improvement to real process transformation. Whether parts of your processes have already been automated or you are looking to take the first steps, the  technology evolution in automation will have a big impact in the coming years. IT strategy plays a huge part in the success of a business and Auditel can help from assisting in individual elements  to developing the full strategy mapped to your business capabilities and needs.