When you think of the IT department, do the words “tech support” instantly pop up in your mind? That’s because most employees only talk to IT when a computer problem or question arises. Beyond tech support, the IT department seems like a land of mystery – an isolated realm where things happen to keep the company’s technology running efficiently and securely, but no one knows exactly how or what those things are.
Lift the veil on IT and you’ll find it’s a vital part of your business–and to make it work best, you need to bring it out of the shadows and into the cultural fold of your company.
Your IT department’s role is much larger than merely tech support, and its employees should not be made to feel they stand apart from the rest of the organization, any more than a beating heart should be separate from a human body. Because at its core, IT builds and maintains the systems that keep information flowing smoothly in business channels, 24-7, and makes sure that information gets to the right places. And it can’t perform that mission in isolation or with culture that doesn’t match its company’s. So how can you make sure your IT department is aligned with your culture, delivering on your organizational mission and supporting other teams in doing the same? Here are five things your IT department can do to add value and support a strong organizational culture:
1. Support Security
A major role of the IT department in any business is to protect the business’s devices and data. Having a Bring Your Own Data (BYOD) policy in your business does come with a downside. Supporting many different devices and apps creates challenges, particularly around security and online safety. Fortunately, there are a number of security measures IT departments (and businesses in general) can use to safeguard devices and data:
- Have a clear, strong BYOD policy
- Use anti-malware software
- Use a Virtual Private Network
- Put proper access controls in place (particularly for sensitive data)
- Practice good password habits
- Use two-factor authentication wherever possible
These security measures will enable your business to accommodate diversity and employee freedom, as well as protect your business.
2. Prepare for Disaster
As companies become more connected, they become more vulnerable to disasters that can take down entire systems. IT departments can help prepare for these with disaster management plans and backup systems. And as we have seen with COVID-19, any large-scale disruption can create vulnerabilities in cybersecurity and opportunities for scammers.
And it’s not enough for IT to plan in isolation. Its disaster-management initiatives need to be shared and understood by all affected employees. The IT department has a critical role in getting people to think about what to do if things go wrong so in the event of an unfortunate event, everyone collaborates in keeping the business as healthy and stable as possible.
3. Support Choice
Most people do their best work when they are free to choose their own tools and instruments. It’s the same at companies: People do good work when they have the freedom to choose their tools. We’ve all been stuck using a device that makes us want to pull our hair out, and that’s not conducive to a pleasant working environment or good work.
Allowing people to use devices and apps of their choice will enable them to do much better. It could even improve the working environment by lowering aggravation levels. That’s why the BYOD revolution in IT is such a big deal. It enables people to do their best work and supports workplaces that encourage diverse cultures. In addition to allowing people to use the devices and apps of their choice, IT departments should ask how they can support people in using their preferred devices and apps, and in helping them use those products securely.
4. Give Your Business an Ear for Customers
A lot of an IT department’s time is dedicated to spreading information about the business’s products and brand message to customers, usually via social media, email, websites, or advertisements.
However, all of that awareness building is useless if there’s no way for customers and potential customers to talk to real people. IT departments must make sure customers’ messages can be heard through any medium, be it Twitter, email, live chat, or social media.
5. Support Innovation
You’ve probably heard many people claim to be technology specialists. While not everyone is a technology specialist, most people are “technologists” because almost everyone uses technology regularly. So if people have great ideas for the good of the business, your IT department should always answer with, “How we can do this to help our customers?” before they resist with, “We can’t do this” or “This is not approved.”
This is probably the biggest role for IT departments: bringing people’s ideas to life with the support of technology and making customers’ lives better. Unfortunately, this role’s importance isn’t often recognized and does not get the attention it needs. Encourage your IT department to support innovation. It will help your business in the long run.
While it may be challenging, it’s essential to align your IT department’s goals with your business goals and company culture. This alignment is what creates a strong organizational culture that will add an extra layer of resilience and an extra measure of success as your team navigates through uncertain times.