Friday 10 February 2023

From crowd to cloud: how IT teams can be transformative

Many in-house IT departments, particularly in supply chain businesses, are still grappling with legacy on-premises tech. How can they manage the switch to modern cloud-based systems while keeping everyone on board?

The days of the IT team that sits in the basement advising people to switch their PCs off and on again are long gone. Modern IT functions are expected to enable supply chain businesses to provide next-day delivery services, introduce robots to warehouses and even unlock the power of big data. But to do this effectively, they must be free of the legacy tech that serves only to reduce their impact across their organisations. That’s the view of Mat Rule, founder and CEO of Toca, which provides a low-code app development platform.

He stresses that cloud-based systems enable IT teams to keep their “ear to the ground, leaving them better placed to anticipate business needs and be proactive in solving problems, rather than just reacting to requests”. He continues: “The function must be at the heart of the business. It cannot be an island. If IT is not woven into the fabric of the organisation, it can’t support day-to-day operations, let alone help the business to achieve its wider goals.”

Although the function is key to successful business transformations, there is a global dearth of IT skills. A survey of CIOs by Gartner last year, for instance, found that 64% considered the talent shortage the most significant barrier to their adoption of the emerging technologies available to them, compared with only 4% in 2020.

This isn’t helped by the fact that firms are leaving their IT teams almost entirely responsible for data extraction and tech use. Research published by Ricoh Europe this August reveals that only 11% of office workers have been granted access to  workflow automation tools.

But adopting cloud technology can help to solve such problems by removing the walls between the IT teams and staff on the ground, providing transparency from the factory floor to the boardroom. So says Halit Develioglu, founder and CEO of Oplog, a provider of supply chain software enabling SMEs to offer Amazon-like delivery options.

“Swift adaptation has become a matter of life and death for most companies,” he says. “While on-premises systems fail to adapt to new circumstances, cloud technologies can, in a matter of clicks, get rid of all the scalability problems you’d normally spend weeks and hundreds of thousands of pounds to  solve. It’s a simple solution to all the problems that IT professionals are facing.”

Even organisations that seem truly committed to on-premises IT solutions can switch to the cloud. Local authorities have a reputation for being wedded to their legacy tech, but one council recently collated more than 100 large data sets, empowering its non-data and strategy teams to cooperate closely on a major scenario-planning exercise.

The whole exercise was enabled by cloud technology. This helped the council master huge volumes of data and overcome challenges including a lack of universal data literacy, according to Robert Harwood, COO at Slingshot Simulations, which helped to manage the process.

“Seven out of every 10 digital transformation initiatives fail,” he says. “This typically has little to do with technology. The causes tend to stem from the processes and the people involved.”

Paul Anderson, cloud services business manager for Ricoh Europe in EMEA, agrees that there is a significant human element to any digital transformation. Winning hearts and minds throughout the organisation is therefore crucial.

“When employees feel that they are involved in the decision, you are more likely to succeed,” stresses Anderson, who advises organisations to demonstrate to all staff how the cloud can “automate the mundane and laborious tasks that IT staff have traditionally faced”.

Showing everyone the capabilities of the new tech is one of the keys to gaining cultural acceptance and pushing through a digital transformation. Harwood advises using cutting-edge cloud-native data science to transform data into digestible insights. Providing this functionality in a no-code environment means that even staff with few data-handling skills can use it and make their jobs easier in the process.

Building trust across departments is also key. IT teams in some organisations have burnt their bridges with other functions – or never had them in the first place. According to  Rule, it’s therefore vital to give everyone the sense that they’re working towards shared goals.

“The best way to get everyone onside is to get some quick wins under your belt,” he says. “For instance, an IT team at a retailer might design an app that enables staff on the shop floor to know what is and isn’t in stock, which saves them from having to constantly traipse up and downstairs to check. Or, at a utility company, IT could develop a portal that gives customers real-time updates on their accounts, saving both them and the company’s representatives from constant phone calls and emails. Key to enabling this is giving IT the ability to develop and launch such apps quickly using low-code development platforms.”

Celebrating IT professionals’ problem-solving skills at the centre of the operation is another vital part in ensuring that they remain happy  and engaged in their work, adds Develioglu.
“Keep in mind that, generally speaking, IT staff have virtually zero risk of unemployment,” he says. “It’s therefore important to keep them fulfilled with processes that help them to realise the positive impact they’re having.”


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