Most IT departments accrued a significant amount of goodwill during the global pandemic thanks to their efforts in keeping businesses running despite the rapid move to home working. It raised the stock of these IT departments, but it also refocused on the need for them to be business innovators and not simply the “custodians of the IT infrastructure.” The pandemic can be seen as the proverbial “fork in the road” for IT departments in many ways. They can either continue to focus most of their time on the “keeping the lights on” or run-the-business activities or invest more in business innovation activities that extend way beyond the traditional view of IT’s change-the-business remit.
This section might not be necessary for some. Still, it’s important to appreciate the difference between invention and innovation – where the introduction of new technology is not necessarily innovation from a business perspective.
It might have been an innovation for the technology creators. Still, unless it delivers better ways of working, new revenue streams, or new business opportunities (for example, new products and services), it’s likely not innovation from the customer business point of view.
Therefore, IT must look beyond invention to appreciate that innovation is all about the practical application of new technologies and practices that create additional business value. For example, a new technology – as with a continual improvement initiative – might be viewed as beneficial within IT, but the positive impact on business operations and outcomes might be negligible.
It’s time for IT to shift from short-term problem solving to long-term innovation
There’s no doubt that IT is good at problem-solving (if not necessarily the ITIL-defined problem management). However, the “fire-fighting” that IT excels at is not necessarily what your organization needs in 2022 and beyond. Instead, there’s a need to reassess the purpose of your corporate IT capability to understand how it could better support the business – from its operations through to its outcomes.
As already mentioned, the pandemic started this move – even if only temporarily – with the need to enable a remote workforce, their ways of working, and the processes they were part of. The question is, “Were the pandemic changes merely IT in problem-solving mode or the start of a greater focus on innovation?” Hopefully, it’s the latter, and much of what started in 2020 is still part of the longer-term innovation that your business needs from your IT department.
Specific innovation opportunities
While what follows can be considered a list of IT industry “buzz phrases,” and none are new in terms of being IT service management (ITSM) trends, each offers the ability for IT departments to deliver innovation and added value to their businesses:
- Digital transformation
- Enterprise service management
- Employee experience
- Artificial intelligence
1. Digital transformation
Research showed that 80% of organizations accelerated their digital transformation initiatives during the pandemic. It was great to see, but we also need to call out that it required the unfortunate nature of the pandemic to get businesses and their IT teams to embrace the need finally.
Digital transformation covers so many innovation opportunities across three key areas:
- New digital products and services that exploit technology and data
- Enhanced customer engagement mechanisms that use technology and data to the best advantage
- Improved business-function operations that eliminate manual processes and their barriers while using technology and data to optimize their operations and outcomes.
Your IT department can help with all of these opportunities, but is it going to sit and wait to be asked, or is it going to proactively offer up “better ways” by exploiting existing and new technologies?
2. Enterprise service management
Much has already been written on the “sharing of ITSM capabilities to improve the operations, services, experiences, and outcomes for other business functions.” However, even though enterprise service management has already evolved from the mere sharing of the corporate ITSM tool a decade ago, there’s still much that can be done. Particularly the use of enterprise service management strategies to improve employee experience across business functions and, with it, employee productivity.
In some ways, enterprise service management can be seen as the vehicle for delivering the third digital transformation element listed above, but it should be so much more. For example, an enterprise service management approach also offers an easier and more cost-effective way of introducing the benefits of AI across the business.
3. Employee experience
In an earlier blog, we called out the need for IT departments to focus on employee experience and pointed to a late-2021 Forrester Research blog, “2022 Will Go Down As The Year Executives Were Forced To Care About Employee Experience.”
Not only is employee experience inextricably linked to the operations and outcomes of IT, but your IT department also has the opportunity to lead the way (likely in conjunction with Human Resources (HR)) on the business-wide improvement of employee experience. Especially in the enablement of hybrid workers – that spend time working at home, in the office, and at other locations – and the improvement of the productivity of all employees.
4. Artificial intelligence
As already mentioned, enterprise service management offers up the opportunity to bring in new capabilities to IT operations that can then be extended to other business functions to improve their operations and outcomes (as well as services and experiences).
It’s a great opportunity for your IT department to be seen (and act) as innovators. Not only by introducing the new technology and its benefits but by doing so in a way that optimizes the use, costs, and benefits. For example, ensuring that the same technology is used across business functions to meet similar needs. This approach reduces complexity and cost and makes it easier for employees to engage with AI-enabled capabilities. Something that elevates your IT department from point-solution-based problem-solving to being strategic innovators.
If you would like to learn more about how your IT department can shift from short-term problem-solving to long-term innovation, please click here.