In today’s business climate, chief information officers struggle with tight budgets and limited resources while being asked to have a broader impact across their organizations. Doing more with less is a common theme.
“It is imperative to build a successful partner strategy,” says Keith Blachowiak, senior vice president, operations, and CIO at Pomeroy IT Solutions. “No one can do everything. You need to keep your precious internal resources focused on those items that drive your competitive differentiation and use partners to provide support for back office IT functions all while lowering your costs and providing enhanced service levels.”
Smart Business gained further insight from Blachowiak into maximizing competitiveness with IT.
What are the focus areas for IT management?
I see three priorities of IT. First, protect the company’s assets. In addition to IT security, this includes the recovery of assets, backups, and business continuity. Second, ensure all deployed technology is running as efficiently today as it did yesterday. This includes keeping the business systems running, networks available, desktops supported, etc. The impact of an unproductive work force due to technology issues is often underestimated. Third, deliver new products and services. This can range from developing new reports to entirely new products.
In today’s highly competitive environment, there is tremendous pressure within an organization for the IT team to place the emphasis on the third priority, which is typically where the competitive differentiation is created. Thus IT management needs to find a solution that provides acceptable levels of protection and operations so they can focus their attention on driving incremental business value. The answer lies in partnerships. By employing partners to handle the back-office, commodity facets of IT, they are able to focus their precious internal resources on the initiatives most important to the company.
Can you give an example?
The IT help desk is a perfect example. Everyone within an organization, from the CEO to the person shipping your product, calls the IT help desk at one time or another. Industry statistics show that most people call the IT help desk one or two times each month. When people place calls to the help desk they are usually in a situation where they cannot do their job and thus are unproductive until the situation is resolved. To make matters worse, very often this also means a customer is not being serviced. The combined loss of productivity and impact to customers can be staggering yet in most companies the IT help desk is not a focus area of the IT management team or the IT budget. The help desk team is usually a lower paid set of individuals, with minimal training, typically working in the back corner of the IT department, answering phone calls but usually providing nothing more than log and escalation assistance. At best, they usually have a system that allows them to record the calls but generally lack the tools to solve the problems in a timely manner. Minimal focus is placed on the average seconds to answer or the first call resolution rate. The company’s IT staff is generally focusing on other more pressing issues and isn’t researching the latest tools for remote problem resolution and knowledge tools things that would help maximize the productivity of their entire company. By partnering with a company that has already invested in the talent and tools to provide this service, the IT management team can dramatically improve the level of service within the company while maintaining or lowering costs and keeping their focus on other company priorities.
Why are partners necessary to accomplish your goals?
No company, regardless of its size and resources, has enough bandwidth to focus in all areas. Partners have focus. This focus allows them to hire the talent with the necessary expertise, procure the tools and technologies that help deliver world-class service and stay abreast of the latest advancements in their particular specialty. They are then able to spread these costs across multiple companies thereby allowing each individual company to receive world class benefits at typically the same or lower costs than when it was run internally.
Are there other areas in which partners can assist?
As mentioned above, the IT help desk is certainly a prime area. Other areas include desk side support, asset procurement, network and telecom support and management, security, database management, data center management and new technology deployments.
KEITH BLACHOWIAK is senior vice president, operations, and CIO at Pomeroy IT Solutions. Reach him at (859) 586-0600 or by e-mail at Keith.Blachowiak@pomeroy.com.