Bridging the technology-employee divide

At the end of 2012 many predictions for the coming year in technology foretold that IT and business technology decision making would be decentralised away from IT departments. Instead it would be driven by other influencers within the organisation: from HR and finance teams to employees and marketing departments, technological innovation would start to flow into IT rather than out from it.

Fast forward three years and that prophecy has yet to materialise and IT still sits at the heart of technology deployments within an organisation, still the listening ear of the business needs and still the deliverer of new innovation. Indeed, research we conducted earlier this year showed that in more than 90 per cent of organisations IT directors were the top influencer both in terms of developing IT strategy and technology purchasing decisions. The executive board, Operations Director and Finance departments all came in the top 5, yet IT remained the most influential.

Change is Afoot

This can largely be attributed to the shift that IT teams in forward-thinking organisations have made in how they approach technology deployments. Rather than locking down to technology and prescribing solutions for users, these IT teams have accepted that people will always find a way to use the technology that is best suited to enabling them to do their job. And in response, they have adjusted the process of how they build and deploy solutions, listening to the requirements of the business and enabling the solutions that are desired and required to be deployed.

As a result, what is now starting to happen is that organisations are increasingly focusing their technology deployments based on what it delivers in terms of productivity and efficiency, and ensuring it acts as both a business enabler and driver of innovation.

Our research showed that among businesses’ top priorities for IT spend in the coming year, innovation, enhanced customer experience, big data and enabling a flexible workforce were high on organisations wish lists. By implementing technology to address these requirements, organisations hope to achieve faster business growth, better collaboration across the business, improved customer service and a more empowered workforce.

Technology emerging from the shadows

The cause of much of this change has been the emergence of ‘shadow IT’, such as mobile devices, applications and other ‘consumer’ technology, and IT starting to embrace it as part and parcel of the modern business, creating an IT eco-system of people-centric technology. Whereas previously employees used innovation and technology – such as cloud storage services and applications – secretively and on the periphery of the business to improve how they work, it is now integral to most organisations’ IT strategy.

This shift to people-centric technology offers organisations a range of opportunities to drive greater innovation, but in order to do so  IT departments must re-prioritise tech deployments, understanding that their people — employees, customers and partners — and their needs must come first, and that the technology serving those needs comes second.  This really underlines that what was widely predicted to be the decentralisation of IT has instead emerged as the consumerisation of IT, with IT departments having the opportunity to lead the charge for technological change and business innovation.

Bridging the technology and employee gap

IT teams are now expected to ensure collaboration between complex infrastructures and the technology that simplifies user experiences, boosts productivity and improves the customer experience, ensuring that all components integrate seamlessly to innovate practices across the business. But, as IT departments know, this is easier said than done. It involves a lot of complexities, especially when managing multiple stakeholders.

The technology first, user second approach, where infrastructures were clearly defined with a single type of device, one operating system and work applications hosted within company walls was relatively simple compared to the complexities that are created by the current need for ‘user first, people centric’ IT. Delivering technology that is defined by an individual’s preferences, the data that people have access to, what devices they’re able to access that information from, and the extent to which they’re allowed to interact with that information, may deliver a simple experience but deploying it is highly complex.

In a modern business, IT teams must now bridge the gap between existing infrastructures, the technology that is desired and the skills and expectations of the employee. In our experience how organisations address these gaps is critical to the success of technology in delivering the innovation that they seek.

To be successful IT teams must identify the pain points of the end-user, breaking down their requirements on a department by department and user-by-user basis before developing a strategy to pull everything together into a unified IT infrastructure. The strategies that are most flexible and adaptable to the rapidly changing requirements of employees and the emergence of new technology have a greater success rate both in realising greater innovation and productivity.

As Steve Jobs said in 1997 “one of the things I’ve always found is that you’ve got to start with the customer experience and work backwards for the technology”.  It may have taken nearly two decades for this to trickle down into the business environment but it now rings true:  to achieve the best possible performance organisations must have a mix of great people and great technology, and only when those two elements work together do great things happen. Those organisations that utilise their IT teams to bridge the divide between people and technology will realise the true ceiling that innovation can offer.

This approach to people-centric technology deployments to enables businesses will be discussed at the Future Thinking Expo, to be held at the Islington Business Design Centre on November 18th.  Visit