The Top 5 Challenges Facing IT Departments in Mid-Sized Companies

Today’s IT departments face many challenges as they adopt new technologies, adapt to change, prove their value to management and do their daily jobs!

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How many times have you read a post that definitively tells you the top (pick a number) challenges facing companies today? My bet is a lot!

It is with this in mind that I offer you another top five list! This is not a definitive list, but a conversation starter to get people thinking and talking about what’s important for today’s Canadian technology departments, managers and leaders. This list also builds on my 15 years of experience working with technology companies of various sizes.

Challenge #1: Change and Control

IT departments put controls and policies in place to keep data, infrastructure and users safe and secure. They deploy, manage and support information/communication systems, along with line of business applications that are crucial to the business. Yet, more is being asked as new technologies like virtualization put pressure on them to change. Data centre and server sprawl is less of an issue today due to virtualization and blade server density. However, there are new dragons to slay such as managing virtual servers, licensing costs, data protection and cooling. Today’s IT departments need to strike a balance between change and control.

Challenge #2: Value and Relevance

The IT department needs to be more flexible and open minded when it comes to the use of new cloud-based services, consumer devices and social networks because if they don’t, departments, executives and end users may bypass IT and take matters in to their own hands. The challenge is to establish an environment where innovation and experimentation can be embraced, yet managed, by the IT department.

Challenge #3: Talent and Skills

Recent labour market studies indicate a shortage of skilled IT workers and a lower enrollment rate in colleges and universities. Time and money for training, mentorship and skills-building varies on a company-by-company basis. Accessing, attracting and developing talent is and will continue to be a challenge for IT departments and companies in general. Establishing an environment where formal and informal learning, experimentation and camaraderie amongst peers will help.

Challenge #4: Strategy and Alignment

The IT department should help define the corporate strategy and execute it with other line of business leaders. Technology touches every department, every user and every customer. If the IT department is viewed as a cost center and a necessary evil, it has to change this mindset to be seen as an enabler and executor of strategic objectives.

Challenge #5: Security and Risk

More pressure will be placed on IT departments to protect the business from risks and to comply with laws, regulations and policies. IT departments will be asked to deploy systems that help reduce risk in new ways, too. More sophisticated systems used to minimize financial risk, automate regulatory compliance and predict exposure will stretch the internal competencies and capabilities of IT departments. However, this will also increase the value that the IT department provides.

I see these challenges as potential good news for IT departments. Technology is always changing and becoming more popular and more valued. Plus, we are now more dependent on it! The key is to ensure that the IT department is a team that protects the business, constantly seeks ways to improve and is considered a strategic partner that helps the business grow, innovate and compete.

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