Written By: Contender Solutions
Information Technology (IT) is a crucial resource for modern businesses. Advances in IT have powered completely new business models, revolutionized the way people communicate and collaborate across vast distances, and made it easier for companies to share important files between remote business units.
However, to set up your own business for success, it’s important to have an effective strategy for IT management and to follow some key IT best practices. What is IT management? What are some of the information technology trends and best practices that your company should follow?
What Is IT Management?
IT management is the blanket term for all of the processes, procedures, tools, and policies that an organization uses to control, monitor, and administer its IT resources.
It includes activities such as:
- IT Asset Management (ITAM). This concerns the acquisition, assignment, and disposition of IT assets used throughout the organization. Following IT asset management best practices helps organizations minimize their spend on IT assets while maximizing their end-of-lifecycle value.
- IT Security Management. The conveniences of modern technology also bring new vulnerabilities and threats for businesses. Following IT security best practices helps organizations defend themselves from modern cyber threats.
- IT Service Management (ITSM). This is, specifically, the sum of the tools, processes, procedures, and activities that a business uses to deliver and manage their IT services. The basic goal is to follow IT service management best practices to maximize service uptime, optimize the user experience, and to control costs.
Information Technology Trends in 2021
Like any business process, IT management can go through trends over time – some trends stick with businesses for a long time, while other information technology trends come and go quickly. Some big IT trends that businesses might want to watch out for in 2021 include:
Viewing IT as a Business Partner for Driving Revenue
IT has long been a critical part of modern business. Companies like Amazon, eBay, Netflix, and countless others have parlayed an IT-centric business model into massive success in consumer retail, entertainment, and other industries.
However, what many businesses have lacked in the past was a mindset of leveraging IT as a business partner to drive revenue. For example, there was a well-known entertainment and movie rental company that once had an opportunity to acquire Netflix not long after the turn of the millennium. Instead, as one Inc.com article describing the meeting stated: “the CEO thought it was a joke” and that he “was struggling not to laugh.”
Fast forward 20 years from that fateful September 2000 meeting, and Netflix is a massively successful company that focuses on streaming content to viewers at home, and that old movie rental company is bankrupt.
In recent years, the need for IT and its usefulness in modern business models has become all too obvious. Many businesses now rely on IT to create efficiency and increase agility throughout their organization.
Increasing Reliance on AI-Powered Solutions
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is a major trend that has been a long time coming—and is likely to continue evolving as the technology and tools that power modern AI solutions become more sophisticated and capable. Businesses of all sizes and industries have leveraged some form of AI to help automate and streamline common business processes.
As noted in an article by Forbes, “most companies have started to explore how they can use AI to improve the customer experience and to streamline their business operations… AI applications will continue to be done through providers of as-a-service platforms.” This can help to create new efficiencies for businesses that help them realize improved ROI.
The applications for AI are as diverse as the companies that use them—from checking the validity of contact information in a database to streamlining repetitive tasks. Many of these AI-driven solutions are highly customized to suit the specific needs of the organization using them. This custom engineering can be a major hurdle for some businesses, as it can be expensive and time-consuming. However, as the market for AI solutions continues to mature, the creation of more solutions and the increased competition should help drive these costs down.
The Rise of the “Internet of Behaviors”
The internet of behaviors (IoB) is a prediction from Gartner regarding 2021 technology trends. Gartner’s article describes IoB as a tool to “gather, combine, and process data from many sources” leveraging “technologies that gather the ‘digital dust’ of daily life – data that spans the digital and physical worlds – that information can be used to influence behaviors through feedback loops.”
The basic proposition is to use the data collected by devices such as GPS trackers, smartphones, wearable health devices, and more to create behavior profiles and assessments for a variety of applications.
For example, a cargo company might use a GPS tracker’s accelerometer data to gauge how fast their truckers are driving, how hard they’re braking, and how tightly they’re taking turns to assess that driver’s overall adherence to the company’s safety guidelines—and provide corrective guidance to drivers who fall short of their safety goals. Meanwhile, GPS location data can be used to assess a driver’s adherence to their planned route and schedule.
E-commerce businesses might track customer spending patterns, seeing where their shoppers are buying goods, what prices they seem to accept for specific items, and when they decide to abandon shopping carts. Using this information, they can customize their online shopping experiences to better cater to their customer’s needs and reduce their abandoned cart rate.
Of course, this is a trend that companies will need to be careful with. This is because data privacy and accessibility laws, like the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), can have a significant impact on what data a company is allowed to collect and when. Violating these regulations can cause a company to be subjected to major fines or other sanctions.
Used correctly, however, the IoB could prove to be an incredibly useful tool for modernizing user experiences, creating new efficiencies, or protecting the business from risk.
Remote Work Expansion
It would be almost impossible to discuss recent IT trends without mentioning how many organizations are now leveraging a remote workforce. This trend, which predates 2021 by a wide margin, became an imperative during the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic. A few months into 2020, much of the U.S. was subjected to “stay at home” orders closing down “nonessential” businesses.
Companies had to adapt quickly to the “new normal” where their employees couldn’t come into the office. Organizations, many of whom had been experimenting with remote productivity and collaboration tools in the past, had to begin implementing remote work solutions and strategies in earnest.
According to research by Gallup, during the early phases of the pandemic, 51% of workers “always” worked from home and another 18% “sometimes” worked remotely. This meant that the vast majority of employees were working remotely. In September of 2020, after many lockdown restrictions were slackened, a large percentage of employees continued to work remotely (33% “always” and 25% “sometimes”).
The benefit of the move to remote work is that it helped companies create new efficiencies and even helped make them more agile. For example, with a remote workforce, companies were no longer totally reliant on hiring “local” talent living within commuting distance of their offices (or having to pay to relocate promising talent).
5 IT Management Best Practices
IT management is more than just chasing the latest trends. While IT trends often emerge because of how they can benefit a business, not every trend will be a best practice, per se. To make the most of IT management, it’s important to consider IT best practices and keep the four pillars of IT in mind (protect the estate, create agility in the organization, modernize the user experience, and create efficiencies).
What are some best practices to keep in mind for IT management? Here’s a short list:
1. Use a Framework/ITSM Software
One of the most basic IT service management best practices is to have some kind of framework for delivering IT services. For example, a company might use AXELOS’ ITIL (information technology infrastructure library) framework to create a consistent, uniform set of expectations for IT assets and their use across the organization.
Leveraging an ITSM framework backed by a complementary software can help organizations make more effective and efficient use of IT resources and minimize the risk of confusion between business units.
2. Have Clear Goals
What does the company need to achieve to realize the maximum possible ROI for its IT investments? Having clear goals for IT is a crucial part of effective IT management. Whether a company is using managed services from a third-party vendor or internal IT staff and resources, having specific goals helps inform the company’s approach to IT.
For example, if a company’s goal is to streamline processes and deliver products and services more quickly, an IT transformation with ServiceNow which eliminates redundant software can be a viable strategy.
3. Use the Right Metrics
Performance metrics are a key part of how businesses can track the effectiveness of specific initiatives. Using the right metrics helps ensure that the organization can accurately track progress towards their most important goals.
However, the “right” metrics for a business might vary depending on the goals it pursues. Some examples of useful categories of metrics for IT initiatives include:
- Cost Metrics. How much is the organization spending on IT? What is their cost-per-ticket for resolving service issues? How much labor time is saved after initializing a specific IT solution?
- Productivity Metrics. How many tasks are employees completing per day/week/month? How often are employees collaborating on projects? How much time are employees spending on non-critical tasks before and after an IT initiative?
- Service Level Metrics. How quickly are service tickets being resolved? What’s the uptime for customer-facing IT products? What percentage of the time are service level agreements (SLAs) being met?
The usefulness of these metrics may vary depending on the organization. For example, a business that offers a “service desk” for other businesses might want to focus on service level metrics like the percentage of calls closed successfully or average time to resolution. Enterprises looking to reduce costs will, naturally, focus on cost-related metrics.
4. Have the Best IT Security
Following IT security best practices is crucial for protecting the “estate” of the organization. Modern IT solutions have brought a lot of conveniences, but they have also introduced new risks in the form of cybercrime.
For example, companies have to contend with:
- Malware and Viruses. Programs that can have a variety of effects on a computer system ranging from rendering files unreadable, to passively stealing information, consuming system resources, running malicious programs for other cyberattacks, and more.
- Phishing Attacks. A type of fraud where a criminal sends a fake message posing as someone else to trick their victim into taking some kind of action (such as paying a fake invoice, giving up user login information, or surrendering sensitive data).
- International or Corporate Espionage. Foreign agents may try to steal the data of businesses with valuable intellectual property (IP) or connections to government agencies.
- DDoS Attacks. Distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks aim to disrupt an organization’s ability to deliver services by overloading their systems. These attacks often rely on botnets created through the installation of malware on other systems.
Because of threats like these, having the best possible IT security (aka cybersecurity) is a must for modern businesses. Strong cybersecurity protections help to minimize the risk of a data security breach or data loss events caused by cyberattacks.
5. Make Customer Success Operations a Top Priority
For any business, customer success should always be a priority. While the definition of customer success may vary from one business model to the next, helping customers meet their goals can help a company drive long-term success and stability.
Why? Because, driving customer success helps to earn long-term customer trust, enhancing opportunities to earn repeat business, upsells, and customer evangelism. A company that has a track record of helping customers meet their goals will have an easier time selling its services to new customers—making meeting sales goals simpler.
So, crafting IT initiatives with an eye towards how they’ll help customers meet their own goals—whether by optimizing their user experience, helping create efficiencies for them, or controlling some risk factor for them—is an important IT management best practice.
This applies even for companies that aren’t dealing in IT service management. For example, a company could adopt a new software that makes its own supply chain management more efficient so that its customers can get more reliable access to goods and services.
The above tips are just a few IT management best practices for organizations. Do you need help with your IT initiatives? Reach out to Contender Solutions today!