IT professionals moving to a more central role
As recent research has shown, the role of IT professionals in Northern Ireland is changing fast and, while that brings challenges, it presents opportunities for them to play a bigger part in shaping the future success of their organisations.
The study, carried out for BT Business Northern Ireland earlier this year, showed how the position of IT leaders has changed from largely managing and maintaining the IT system to a much more significant and central role.
Peter Russell, General Manager of BT Business NI, says businesses look increasingly to IT to help them to deliver their strategy and achieve their goals.
"In BT, we are working as a partner with mid to large organisations to integrate new technology into their operations. By supporting IT leaders in navigating the journey into new technologies, we're helping them deliver the most value to their business and ultimately to evolve in their own role," he says.
Just as BT's core business has developed from being a telecoms and network provider to also delivering transformational IT services to business, the environment in which IT professionals operates has similarly evolved swiftly.
That is largely being driven by new and emerging technologies. For instance, some 68% of organisations surveyed were already using cloud-based solutions.
While nine out of 10 IT professionals expected new technologies to impact positively on their roles, the survey revealed they were increasingly having to manage the internal demands posed by the ready availability of these emerging technologies to departments and individuals within their organisation.
This latter development raises the level of risk for organisations that are not enhancing their IT capabilities at the rate which employees themselves need or want, according to Peter Russell.
"With access to technology throughout an organisation now more pervasive than ever, ensuring consistency, best practice and data security is now a huge challenge," he says.
He cites one clear example of the dangers posed by the new technologies which mean that highly sophisticated applications and resources are just a few clicks away for anyone who wants to access them.
In the past, if an executive in a business wanted an application to help them do a job better, they would approach the IT department and make their case. It would be assessed and, if found appropriate, the most robust and secure technology would be deployed.
Peter says: "That has changed because of the pace that businesses must operate under in order to be responsive. It means that the same executive is more likely to find their own solution by downloading an instant, off-the-shelf solution from the net.
"While this might appear to provide an inexpensive answer to a pressing need, it creates a 'Shadow IT' environment, with potentially huge consequences for data security."
As he points out, an organisation might have invested heavily to protect itself against cyber-attack, yet a Shadow IT environment like this is the equivalent of "leaving the back door wide open".
The cloud is becoming central to the IT strategies of many Northern Ireland companies, Peter adds. It's a hugely beneficial move, but it's certainly not without its challenges and is not the answer to every problem. BT's experience as a partner that promotes evolution, rather than revolution, can - he says - add real value for all those who have to manage the change.
Peter Russell is General Manager of BT Business Northern Ireland. For further information and to contact BT Business in Northern Ireland, please email firstname.lastname@example.org