IT Matters: The year that was… And what will be

by Kevin Squires
Kevin Squires is Vice President, Business Technology for the Econo-Rack Group of companies (Konstant, RediRack, Econo-Rack, Technirack.)
Kevin Squires is Vice President, Business
Technology for the Econo-Rack Group of companies
(Konstant, RediRack, Econo-Rack, Technirack.)

Happy holidays! It is at this time that we look back and reflect on our accomplishments and the lessons we learned as we navigated our businesses through the waters of technology.

This year we have seen innovation that has had, or will have, an impact on us. We also examined a few ways we can turn the perception of technology in our business from a “cost” to a “contributor” in an ever-changing landscape.

In 2015 the commoditization of IT continued unabated (and also continues to pose challenges to those leading IT in corporate Canada), “as-a-service” is close to becoming the emerging standard for new organizational applications, the cloud is becoming a household word that is referenced a lot but understood little, and the pervasiveness of the Internet has started to invade the sanctity of our homes in not-so-subtle ways.

These are just a few areas that have made significant leaps forward over the last 12 months and have IT leaders diligently trying to help their organizations to keep up, and find some way to turn this technology in their favour and create the ever elusive “sustainable competitive advantage”—the holy grail of technology success for any company.

To help IT leaders use and even view technology differently in their organization, this column has been my way of sharing with you the lessons I have learned leading IT in Fortune 500 companies, as well as those learned in some of the smaller organizations I have been a part of (which have been equally as valuable.)

A constant theme has been the key paradigm shift that some organizations have still not capitalized on as fully as they could: IT is a revenue generator, a powerful growth mechanism that has the advantage of being able to support existing initiatives and make them better—much better in most cases. I’m trying to help those organizations that still think IT’s contribution is e-mail and computers understand technology can help initiate true business transformation.

If you have incorporated some of the topics covered in this column over the last year, you will be well on your way to leading an IT shop that isn’t just a bystander in the business, but has started to be seen as a contributor. You have also started to prioritize your projects with the business so you are working on the most important things first (and not just the ones with the coolest technology.) And you have looked at your environment with new eyes, as if you just assumed your role, and you have discovered all kinds of low-hanging fruit that you were able to address quickly and usually with considerable impact.

We also discussed the various models you could choose when implementing new applications, either on premises or using the cloud and the “as-a-service” offering which is cost-effective and very resource-friendly but does come with some downsides.

Finally, in the latter part of the year we also saw the impact of IoT (the Internet of Things) on our daily personal and work lives and the realization that IoT is not slowing down, but starting to really gain traction as major vendors start to build in conduits that read real-time data and make educated decisions on our behalf.

With this new technology, as with any other, comes the most important aspect of what we have spoken about: innovation. To truly break free of the old paradigm and use technology to drive business growth and generate revenue, you need creativity and vision to see what would make a difference and innovate around it. That is the true power of technology in today’s market place, and it’s what will set you apart as an IT leader.

As a new year approaches, full of the promise of new technological miracles, we need to be vigilant in looking for ways to adapt to the new technology and trends to help us increase customer loyalty and satisfaction, to market a better product or service in a shorter timeframe, to make our product more efficiently so we can decrease operating costs while increasing revenue.

Simple? Well, it can be when technology hits that sweet spot in our organization and it makes you step back and say “Wow!” That true eureka moment where everything seems to click and fall into place and you realize the technology you have just implemented is truly transformational to the business.

That is the feeling we crave; that feeling when we know we have made a significant difference. That’s what keeps us going, and why we welcome each new year like a child opening presents on Christmas morning with the excitement of never knowing what is coming next.