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PHOTO: Hans-Peter Gauster

We’re in a new era of enterprise IT — one in which once-demonized employee behaviors like “shadow IT” are now commonplace.

Across industries and enterprises, employees have gained unprecedented autonomy over the tools they use. At the same time, IT departments are adjusting to a new role as facilitators of tech choice rather than the department that imposes and enforces specific tools and platforms. The result is a new paradigm that creates challenges for process management — and requires strategic planning.

Related Article: Business Process Management Success Starts With People

The IT Renaissance

In recent years, enterprise digital transformation needs and evolving employee preferences have fundamentally changed the expectations and role of IT departments.

Traditionally, we think of the IT department as the enterprise “bad cop” — the ones putting the brakes on a new tool because of its perceived security risks, or limiting employees’ abilities to work flexibly because of infrastructure shortcomings. In short, IT departments traditionally functioned, necessarily, as organizational naysayers, operating out of a constant awareness of time, resource and monetary limitations.

But employees have increasingly made it known that they’re not only dissatisfied with the naysayer approach to IT, but they’ll take action to counter a restrictive IT department. In a 2017 survey of full-time employees, for instance, Nintex found that of the roughly two-thirds of employees who pointed to inflexible IT departments, about 40 percent responded by choosing to use devices and apps that did not have the IT seal of approval.

This recourse to shadow IT has gradually become the norm. In doing so, it’s highlighted the need for employees and departments to choose their tech. And IT leaders are adapting to this new model. Today, IT departments must function as tech facilitators, moving out of the server rooms and into the realm of helping departments and line-of-business employees make informed technology choices, integrate systems, and get value out of purchased technology.

Related Article: Shadow IT Isn't Going Away — And That's a Good Thing

Tips For Process Management in IT’s New Era

While IT’s renaissance is a needed evolution, it introduces new problems for IT leaders as well. One of the immediate issues with more tools-based freedom is a greater sense of disorganization. For example, when one department is using one messaging platform while another department swears by a different one, IT oversight can become more difficult. Additionally, the use of a broader range of tools can increase the load on IT to fulfill timely troubleshooting requests. Security and compliance can also be challenged in a more dispersed tech environment.

Ultimately, though, the problems of IT’s renaissance all point to a need for better process management. In an environment of unprecedented tech freedom, IT decision-makers have to internally prepare to manage their evolving role. Here are some steps they can take:

  • Skill up frontline workers: When managed poorly, a more dispersed app environment can mean IT workers are suddenly deluged with troubleshooting requests and have to become fluent in a much broader range of tools. However, when it comes to fulfilling these requests, IT departments can find a helpful partner in their frontline workforce. When IT leaders make an effort to empower line-of-business workers with greater tech knowledge and aptitude, they’ll not only accommodate employee preferences (a separate Nintex study found that 77 percent of employees want more digital involvement), but also alleviate their own troubleshooting workload. In terms of equipping employees with these skills, low-code and no-code tools can play a key role.
  • Embrace a more agile approach: In the new era of IT, agility is key. Whereas traditional IT departments were viewed as inflexible and reactive, today’s IT leaders must be adaptive. As organizations and IT departments evolve and transform, the “fail fast” mentality will be key to effectively moving forward. Therefore, when it comes to driving technology across the business, IT leaders need to be both attuned to what’s not working and more willing to course-correct.
  • Deploy automation tools: A more dispersed app environment means more low-level tasks for IT workers to fulfill. But in the new era of IT, we need tech decision makers moving away from lower-level tasks and toward a more consultative role. Automation technology can play a significant part in facilitating this transition. By identifying process-based automation tools, IT departments can automate many of the tasks they were once forced to manually handle, thereby freeing up their workloads for higher-level work.   

By following these strategic steps, enterprise IT leaders can successfully embrace their pivotal new role as the facilitators of a modern workplace while also keeping this workplace secure and well-managed.