Why IT initiatives and IT staff should be a priority in strategic planning

There is an interesting quote that defines technical support as “a person who does precision guesswork, based on unreliable data provided by those of questionable knowledge.” As far as technical support goes, there is some truth to that. Technology continues to advance at a rate that no one can possibly keep up with, and IT professionals frequently must solve problems that are beyond their scope of knowledge. Don’t get me wrong, an IT professional must have a solid foundation of technical expertise to achieve results. However, even for those with a wealth of experience, the pace of changes in the IT landscape and ability to plan for future unknowns is the most difficult thing about the profession today.

Far beyond the technical aspects, the role of IT professionals continues to evolve. The stereotypical introverted technician is just that — a stereotype — and today’s IT professionals must master skills in more nontraditional areas to be successful. IT professionals need to understand cybersecurity and be able to safeguard their organizations against the endless threats that are so pervasive. This includes being able to explain these threats to management to ensure that cybersecurity investments are a part of the budget process. While larger organizations may have separate roles such as chief information technology officer and chief information security officer, in smaller organizations, those roles may be filled by an individual wearing many hats. That individual needs to be constantly looking to increase their knowledge base to support both the technical and cybersecurity needs of the company.

In addition, today’s IT professionals need to have the soft skills to communicate effectively within their organization. It takes a strong communicator to raise cybersecurity awareness across an organization. Those communication skills are also needed to be able to plan strategically, share insights, and keep management informed on all fronts. There was a time when IT was something of an afterthought when it came to involvement in the decision-making processes of an organization. Now, it is critical that IT strategic planning align closely with the strategic plan of the enterprise.

There is currently a shortage of IT professionals with the skill set to handle all these challenges. This is largely due to the rapidly changing landscape and huge challenges presented by cybersecurity risks. Management should recognize that these employees have become crucial to ensuring that the technology supporting the organization is doing so in both a safe and effective manner. They also need to ensure that they are supporting the continued training and education of their IT staff.

How and where does an organization get started? Businesses need to take a collaborative approach to making IT staffing and strategic initiatives a top priority. Organizations should  operate with the mindset that strategic IT discussions shouldn’t take place once a year but should be a topic that is revisited all year long at regularly scheduled intervals. IT-related expenses should not be viewed as sunk costs but rather as a critical component to ensure that the business is operating efficiently and securely.

Businesses continue to see cyberthreats arise through new means of hacking, phishing, impersonations, and more. The best insurance policy to mitigate these threats — in addition to actual insurance, of course — is for management to focus on strategic IT initiatives and to provide IT professionals with opportunities to continually improve their skill sets. It has never been more obvious that IT is no longer a mysterious person who works in some back room. These professionals are critical components to an organization’s safety, longevity, and overall success.

Karl Krug is AVP information technology/security officer at Capitol Bank.

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