Leveraging an IT Consultant to Improve Overall IT Department Management

IMG_9830.JPGThe IT landscape is shifting away from exclusively in-house work. More and more companies are turning to IT consulting services, rather than trying to carry out all IT tasks internally. This tendency is a natural outcome of the increasing complexity of the IT landscape.

In the “old days” of IT (say, 4 or 5 years ago), all a business needed was a couple of servers, the computers themselves, and an IT worker knowledgeable enough to architect a network. Then, network configuration was simple enough to allow most IT employees to understand it. Now, however, network architecture is much more complex, since companies must use dozens of different technologies to stay competitive. From SaaS (Software as a Service – i.e. software that is streamed through the cloud rather than run onsite) to remote servers to outsourcing, to BYOD (“bring your own device”), the modern IT department is a confusing mishmash of different tasks.

IT consulting services can bring clarity and efficiency to an IT department by offering a fresh, customer proven and tested perspective. When you work at arm’s length from a certain phenomenon, day in and day out, it can be difficult to see where improvement is possible. An IT consultant can provide an unbiased perspective on any IT in-house department.

Of the many ways an IT consulting service can help improve IT department management, the following two stand out as starting points for focusing on improved performance and efficiency.

Core Vs. Chore: Farming Out Nonessential IT Work to an IT Consulting Service

If you consider all the IT tasks and service delivery you must perform in-house, you’ll notice that some of them are essential to your company’s mission and success, while others are really more of a chore. IT consulting services have a rather catchy name for this dichotomy: Core vs. Chore. “Core” tasks are those that should be conducted in-house to ensure exceptional business outcomes. They are at the heart of your business, and they represent part of why you got into business in the first place. “Chore” duties must be done – you can’t just let them fall by the wayside – but they’re less central to the organization’s mission and purpose.

The same task will fall into either the core or the chore category, depending on your business. For instance, if you sell equestrian items through an online store, you might consider manning your technical help desk to be a “core” task, since your main purpose is to sell items online. Customers are more likely to buy if they feel your help desk is local, friendly and thoroughly knowledgeable about your website. However, another company could very well label the same task a “chore.” For example, an online newspaper would probably benefit by outsourcing this aspect of its website, as it wouldn’t be considered central to the paper’s goal of creating engaging, well-informed content.

Once you know which are your “core” and which are your “chore” tasks, you can outsource the latter to an IT consulting service. Doing so boosts departmental efficiency by freeing employees up to focus on what really matters to the business. IT is taking on more of a strategic role these days, and IT employees can shine as innovators if they’re not bogged down with “chores” that IT consulting services can carry out in less time and at a lower cost. (This is, of course, the key to making the whole core vs. chore approach work – you must broker with your IT consultant to make sure you’re getting a good ROI on the tasks you’re farming out.)

ITIL Guidelines, Service Catalogues and Configuration Management Databases

Flexible, experienced management is required to oversee the jungle of contracts and vendor relationships involved in a contemporary IT department. Yet managers often fail to see the big picture of how all IT tasks fit together. Without this “big picture” view, it’s almost impossible to set smart priorities.

This is another area where an IT consulting service can come in. By following ITIL (International Technology Infrastructure Library) guidelines, an IT consultant can establish best practices for your firm. The ITIL standards are considered the best IT guidelines in the world. The first step in assessing whether a company is meeting or exceeding ITIL standards is to create a service catalogue, which is simply a listing of every task an IT department handles.

Once this complete listing of IT duties is compiled, the IT consulting service can compare the results to ITIL guidelines by creating a configuration management database. This database lists which technology is required to carry out each IT task and links it with the business process that requires these services, making everything IT does business connected. With a configuration management database and service catalogue in hand, an IT consultant can determine which methods and technologies are benefiting the business, and which are merely dragging it down.

By using an expert outsider’s perspective to apply ITIL guidelines, and by taking care of non-core business tasks, IT consulting services can improve the efficiency and overall performance of any IT department.

 

[ Photo by: juanpol, via CC License ]

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