The UK workforce is becoming so computer savvy that information technology departments will perish, at least in their current form. Companies will not shut down IT group’s altogether but will instead expect them to make strategic decisions rather than fix PCs and networks - costly tasks which they’ll shift to service firms.
That was the consensus at a lively debate in central London late last week, buoyed by a Yankee Group survey and research report commissioned by British IT services firm Star.
Nearly all of the 300 medium-sized UK companies that Yankee queried said that their IT departments currently spend little time building a strategy that maps computer use to the company’s goals and operations. Close to a third said their IT departments spend no time at all on strategy, and almost half said they give it less than 10% of their time.
“Instead, internal IT staff are locked into a vicious cycle of firefighting and routine administrative tasks,” the Yankee report concludes. “But dealing with trivial tasks doesn’t come cheap: It’s costing the average company more than £30,000 of its annual internal IT budget.’’ This in turn is hurting the UK, because the 73,000 medium-sized companies that employ up to 1,000 people form the heart of the economy.
Futurist Peter Cochrane said wastefulness at midsized companies could stop if chief executives outsource IT and allow employees more freedom to handle their own technology. Society is far enough into the digital age that workers often know more about computing than does the IT staff. IT departments “don’t take the very best people,” and as a result, they often don’t think innovatively and can fail to repair and maintain things properly, even putting security at risk, said Cocrhane.
Meanwhile, non-IT employees are increasingly taking IT initiatives—sometimes against company policy—buying their own PCs, installing WiFi networks, deploying VoIP (voice over IP) and making clever use of small high-capacity memory sticks. The situation is growing more chaotic now that young people who have grown up at ease with computing are joining the workforce.
A turning point will finally come as the digital generation climbs the ladder into top decision making roles and starts outsourcing PCs, servers, networks, email and other operations to managed service firms like Gloucester-based Star, which focuses on medium-sized companies.
Rather than viewing managed services as a threat, IT chiefs at medium-sized companies should see it as “the way in which you avoid the IT organisation becoming irrelevant,’’ said Star vice-president John Adey. Using a managed services provider can free IT departments to focus on strategy, he explained.
Some medium sized firms have already made this shift, like accounting firm Saffery Champness and management consultancy The Nichols Group, both London-based Star clients. Saffery information technology partner David Farnan said he now spends more time on strategic issues because “I don’t have to worry about my server crashing.” Both he and Stephen Winspear from Nichols agreed that challenge for any company handing off IT functions is to find a trustworthy and attentive provider. Farnan and Winspear both agreed that a company like Star, itself a medium-sized operation, makes a better IT partner than a big corporate IT service firm would.
Star is a leading provider of technology services to over 4,000 mid-sized businesses and public sector organisations in the UK, including Conde Nast, Bird & Bird, Coventry City Council, English Heritage, AGI Media Packaging Europe, Tickets.com and the Sunday Times Wine Club. More than products and services, Star provides solutions that enable its clients to harness the power of technology and business applications that were previously only available to large corporations. These solutions include managed technology services, on demand technology, business applications, business continuity, email, security and connectivity. Whatever the solution, it is always underpinned by best-of-breed technology and high service level agreements.
For further enquires, please contact:
Fran Ashcroft, Star
T: +44(0)12 8588 6285 - E: fashcroft[.]star.net.uk.
Charlotte Herbert, Firefly Communications
T: +44(0)20 7386 1245 - E: charlotte.herbert[.]fireflycomms.com.
Shammi Shah, Firefly Communications
Sam Bevans, Firefly Communications
T: +44(0)20 7386 1542 - E: sam.bevans[.]fireflycomms.com.