IT at work: From supporter to partner

Regional Director – APAC, ManageEngine

In today’s digital-first world, the IT function is quickly transforming from being a supporting function to a vital partner in ensuring an organisation’s success.

“IT teams used to be specifically focused on bringing in technology, managing IT infrastructure and assisting teams with availability and performance,” Arun Kumar, Regional Director – APAC, ManageEngine. “IT was very much tech support.”

However with digital transformation accelerated during the pandemic, businesses had to find ways to remain relevant and stay connected to stakeholders. Business continuity took centre stage.

From decentralisation of IT departments to the increase in the technical proficiency of non-IT employees, this expanding and evolving role brings with it new expectations and challenges.

Collaborative bridge

The COVID-19 pandemic has been an unwitting game-changer in the world of technology. Acting as a catalyst for digital transformation, it has also spurred increased collaboration between IT departments and other teams.

According to the Singapore edition of the ‘IT at Work: 2022 and Beyond’ study, 88% of decision-makers believed collaboration between their IT department and other teams has increased in the last two years.

One possible driver of this is the decentralisation of organisations’ IT structures in the country. While globally, two-thirds of IT decision makers said they successfully decentralised their IT departments, Singapore came out tops at 81% democratising the function.

“We have seen a huge shift in IT becoming decentralised, with varying degrees of autonomy being built into departments so that they can make their own decisions,” Kumar explains. “Decentralisation is the way forward. It drives innovation especially in the new world of hybrid work, and helps organisations to better serve customers, while also providing better employee experience.”

In fact, 95% of all decision-makers believe there are benefits to the democratization of IT, including greater recognition of the importance of IT and increased scope for innovation.

While decentralisation has meant IT having a broader role in deciding on security controls and driving sustainability policies, it has also led to a slew of challenges in maintaining security and quality levels due to BYOD (Bring your own device) policies and non-IT business leaders making technology decisions, amongst others.

Protection gap

Business interruption due to cybersecurity concerns is one of the biggest threats to businesses today. The drastic increase in cyberattacks and ransomware in the region has seen over half organisations in APAC having experienced a cyber incident, a third of which have suffered multiple incidents, according to The State of Incident Response report.

Despite the volume of cyber incidents, 36% of organisations in the region do not have a response plan, leaving them unable to manage an incident effectively and of being vulnerable to further attacks.

Businesses in Singapore are inadequately prepared too. Even as IT is being decentralised in several organisations, many (including the IT function itself) still hold the IT and security teams as primarily responsible for protecting the organisation from cyber attacks. According to the ‘IT at Work: 2022 and Beyond’ Singapore study, only 8% of IT decision makers believe that everyone in the organisation should share that burden.

“Security threats are increasing exponentially with the widespread adoption of remote work model and automation,” says Kumar. “Urgent awareness is needed around collaboration to bridge the cyber risk protection gap.”

“While businesses can strengthen their defences by implementing the right solutions and tools to proactively alert anomaly situations and manage networks, people must be at the core of their security mitigation strategy,” he adds.

Future of (IT) work

The future is artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML). Being used extensively across the business to automate specific tasks, prevent cyber attacks and build employee self service, AI/ML is here to stay. In fact, nearly 60% decision makers in Singapore have invested in such technology, according to the ‘IT at Work: 2022 and Beyond’ Singapore study. However, employees aren’t fully future-ready.

Even as the use of new technologies increases, nearly all (98%) business decision makers here said their employees face barriers in taking full advantage of those technologies. Most importantly, more training is required for AI/ML to be used to its full potential outside of the IT department.

With IT increasingly adopting such new technology (69%), its role is set to be even greater in the next five years. With such a pivotal role, organisations must be careful not to push their IT talent away.

Yet, IT leadership talent is looking to leave in droves with nearly half of global IT leaders at risk of attrition. Closer to home, 35% of IT decision makers say they are less loyal now than two years ago. The top three things they say they want most from their roles in the next five years include increased stakeholder management, greater collaboration and more potential to upskill.

“The IT department’s role is far-reaching, varied, and pivotal to their organisation’s success – either centrally or in support of other departments within the organisation,” says Kumar. “IT will remain key to the future of work so it is crucial to engage and retain this talent.”

Unlocking digital value

For a company’s digital transformation journey to continue successfully, innovation to flourish, and functions across the organisation to take full advantage of technologies available, organisations will need to:

  1. Involve IT at the start of any discussion of tech change/adoption to ensure better change management/compliance/cybersecurity
  2. Engage employees in training so tech investments have a support system in place
  3. Ensure compliance and quality controls around regulations as a decentralised IT function remains at the core of the organisation
  4. Develop a cyber security culture – cybersecurity should be everyone’s responsibility across an organisation

“Collaboration is key for IT to succeed in the many roles it is expected to play,” Kumar advises. “Then only can the function achieve IT by the people, for the people and with the people.”