By Tom Shanley
Knowing when to invest in information technology is a struggle for many organizations. With so many new applications and hardware upgrades available, it can be a challenge to know which has the highest return on investment. Spending the time to research and understand how an IT solution can help your business requires expertise and business acumen.
A proven approach is to divide the tasks of researching and reviewing options by setting up an information technology committee. There is no shortage of applications or hardware to choose from for seemingly any need. Many existing products are nearly mirror images of one another, albeit with slightly different features that may or may not affect whether a product can integrate with your existing network. By setting up a committee dedicated to defining and managing the many aspects of technology and how it impacts business, you can mitigate the risk of making a bad investment.
The role of an IT committee is to align information technology with the business strategy. Typically, the committee is comprised of management personal and internal IT resources. Committee members may also include vendors, board members and IT consultants. In the event you are looking to start a committee, consider the following.
Operation: The benefit of the committee approach to IT development and management is the opportunity to define initiative champions that are responsible for each functional area. This division of labor will allow the business to advance IT on multiple fronts while still keeping an eye on IT and financial management. Regular meetings, accountability and reporting are important objectives for each committee member.
IT management: As IT systems become more important to business operations, it’s critical that they are properly maintained, secured and backed up. The IT committee needs to define and oversee the resources, processes and metrics around the management of the systems and personnel responsible for these tasks. The IT committee also defines IT policy and is responsible for regular reviews and updates as technology changes.
Budgeting: Another role of the IT committee is to own the IT budget. This means that they need to define costs, returns on investment and timelines. Since IT projects are often undertaken to achieve business cost reductions or measurable gains in things like productivity, there are financial justifications for many IT projects.
In our business, we sit on the IT committees of many different companies, and we have seen the important role they can play in small and mid-size businesses. While many organizations are tasking employees to do more with less, the IT committee gives employees and managers another way to work together to reach important business goals, and by inviting your IT vendors to the meeting they can provide training opportunities and technology consulting in this fast-changing field.
Tom Shanley is the vice president of technical operations for IQ Systems, Inc.