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How to stay out of technical debt

Oct. 23, 2019

The trick is building technical cache rather than accruing IT debt.

Whether they know it or not, every company today is a technology company. From the datacenter and cloud systems hosting a company’s data, to the tablets and laptops in the hands of employees, today’s business environments are deeply interconnected and

Connected Workforce at Insight Enterprises' Brian Gatke

reliant on technology. Investing in a company’s IT, especially the end-user experience, can and should be a priority when it comes to business operations and employee productivity.

Those who fail to do so create technical debt from which recovery can be daunting. Because of this, IT professionals not only play an increasingly vital role in supporting the business, they are also a tremendous knowledge base to assess the most important technical needs for what should be an organization’s most precious resource: its people.

Yet a 2018 global CIO survey by Deloitte found that 87% of CIOs said their IT organization is perceived by the business as being laggard or delinquent. Further, 42% said their organization has a limited or non-existent digital strategy. This suggests that, all too often, businesses are essentially going paycheck to paycheck with IT and struggling to invest in their future.

But strides are being made.

The state of IT today

A recent study that surveyed 400 North American IT decision-makers determined that in the last 12 months, 41% of respondents had introduced more self-service and automation features within their support models, as well as expanded access to mobile computing devices like tablets. These implementations not only reduce the labor burden on IT but improve the mobility of a workforce while promoting the consumerization of IT.

IT departments also are streamlining the tech supply chain, with 72% of respondents providing employees with ready-to-go devices out of the box and 71% allowing employees to choose their preferred device types. With streamlined processes and more choices available to teammates, organizations inevitably see employees who are more motivated and productive in their work.

This is a competitive advantage in hiring and retaining talent in a landscape in which the national unemployment rate is at a 50-year low. Yet despite 64% of workers saying their employers challenge them to do things in a completely new way, 58% percent say they’re so swamped with day-to-day work that they simply don’t have time to innovate, according to Workfront’s “The State of Work Report.”

Great user experiences are often achieved by modernizing to cloud architectures. Many companies have embraced such modernizations and have listened closely to their users. For example, modernizing their Windows 10 architecture the way Microsoft intended, inclusive of using Intune and Autopilot to deploy and update the endpoints, saves labor costs and helps enable a consumer-like experience that is seamless in how their technology is provisioned.

Where IT is headed

Based on industry trends, employees might expect to benefit from more independence in the IT-support process and a greater ability to work where they want, from whatever device they want.

Businesses are moving to more mobile devices, which makes sense now that two-thirds of workers globally work remotely every week, with more than half doing do for at least half the week.

That trend is a natural result of the modernization of the architectures responsible for moving identity and access, directory, applications and data to the cloud.

Cloud architectures are key to computing from anywhere on any device. So once that state of computing is achieved, it makes sense to fulfill users’ desire to have more choices.

Refocusing IT talent

As workplace technology becomes more complex and ubiquitous, the need for manufacturers to modernize increases. IT professionals are hearing first-hand what employees want: mobile, modern equipment and streamlined processes, which are important to recruitment and retention of talent.

To this end, companies need to free up cashflow for IT to make the important investments to do so. Leveraging operating expenses like leasing and as-a-service models (rather than making traditional capital investments in technology) may help IT make the business case. In fact, 77% percent of IT decision makers in the Insight study agree that converting to an OpEx model enables them to better equip their workforces with the latest modern equipment.

Off-loading day-to-day operational activities lets IT focus on modernization. By dedicating IT talent, funding and time to transformative projects that serve their users and strategic company objectives, manufacturers get more out of IT investments than simple “keep the lights on” activities. IT service-providers are not only equipped with the tools and skillsets to manage the environment “as is,” but throughout any modernizations that get implemented.

Yes, these hybrid environments remain very costly when companies self-maintain their operations. But organizations that clear the way of non-vital activity and free up IT resources to focus on modernization inevitably bring greater flexibility into the business. As a company grows and changes, it can adjust its leasing model to account for its development, rather than buying first and assessing needs later. OpEx models also may help streamline the approval process, as a request might require fewer levels of sign-off from management than a capital expenditure would.

Perhaps most critically, organizations that empower their IT professionals to be more innovation-minded will see that talent focused on new ideas that benefit the business, keep employees fully engaged, and even enhance products and customer experiences. In other words, building technical cache rather than accruing IT debt.

Brian Gatke is director of IT services portfolio with Connected Workforce at Insight Enterprises