What Is IT Integration? Should It Be Part Of Your Business Strategy?
Editor’s note: This article was originally published in 2015, but has been updated to include current information.
Over the years, technology has become the backbone of businesses around the world.
As the role of technology has increased, many companies have embraced technology and made it part of their overall business plan and strategy. This is part of what we call IT integration.
Want to know more about IT integration and how it can help your business be more efficient? This article is for you!
As vice president, engineering services, at Kelser, I work with companies like yours every day to help them use technology as a competitive differentiator.
My experience has shown that small and medium businesses often don’t have the resources to stay ahead of their technology needs. They often don’t realize how outdated technology is holding their business back and, when it comes to IT, they are in reactive rather than proactive mode.
In today’s increasingly connected world, the role of technology, which was once related to its own department, has now become an important facet of every aspect of business.
In this article, I’ll explain what that looks like and the benefits integration offers.
What Is IT Integration?
While every organization implements it differently, the basic idea of IT integration is the ability to capitalize on technology advances to successfully achieve your business goals. It involves all aspects of your business.
Whether your business is production- or service-oriented, keeping up with the latest technology advances can make the difference between surviving and thriving. From purchasing to customer service to accounting, technology can make a difference throughout your organization.
But, since technology operates behind the scenes, business leaders tend to lose track of how old their technology is, and as long as it continues operating, there is no issue, right? Not necessarily.
Related article: Is It Time To Replace IT Equipment? (How To Know, What To Do)
Why Is Being Proactive About IT Important?
Think of it this way: would you rather take your vehicle for regular oil changes or replace the vehicle when the engine seizes? Regular oil changes are relatively inexpensive, can be scheduled and budgeted for, and prolong the life of your vehicle.
While technology maintenance may not always be inexpensive, when you proactively plan and budget for improvements, you are in a much better spot than if you wait for something to go wrong and have to deal with an unexpected expense and potential downtime.
What Are The Benefits Of IT Integration?
Some of the direct benefits of IT integration include improvements in:
Technology integration can make everything simpler from document sharing to coordinating and facilitating the use of resources among multiple locations.
It yields efficiency (and safety) improvements for remote workers and those in brick-and-mortar office spaces.
For example, if you are adding 10 employees (congratulations!) technology integration would make sure that your IT infrastructure is up to the extra traffic before employees start. If you are downsizing, including technology considerations (i.e. licensing) can yield cost savings.
Integrating technology considerations into your overall business strategy can also enhance productivity.
In the same way that modern machining equipment makes producing parts to exact specifications much easier, having the right technology in place minimizes downtime and makes the daily activities of your users (from production to shipping to marketing) easier and more efficient.
As a result, more work gets done in the same amount of time.
Having the right technology in place can also yield resilience. For example, having data backups that are current, easily accessible, and located in another geographic region can mitigate the impact of a cyber event.
With the right tools in place before an event occurs, your organization is in a much better position to respond swiftly and efficiently, minimizing downtime and overall impact on your business.
How Do I Integrate Technology Throughout My Business?
The answer to this question is different for every organization because of its own specific goals. But, generally speaking, to integrate technology across any business requires that IT folks are kept informed and engaged in all aspects of your business.
If you have a large organization, it may mean assigning an IT staff member to sit in on every organization’s planning meetings. If your organization is on the smaller side, it could be something as simple as making sure your internal or external IT support staff is included in quarterly strategy meetings.
Some of the key areas technology integration could positively impact include:
Many businesses treat their IT organization as a separate entity and limit their interactions on a “need-to-know” basis. The thing is that by weighing in early, your internal or external IT support staff can often make proactive recommendations that will save time and money in the long run.
Consider, for example, a move to a new facility. With advanced knowledge, the IT team can be sure that everything you need in the new facility is in-place before everyone shows up on the first day to find that the phone system doesn’t work or the wireless access points are in the wrong place.
If you’ve ever found yourself sitting down to brief your IT staff on an project so that they know what isn’t working correctly, you may find yourself looking for a better way forward.
Involving your technology support team early offers a more efficient solution and streamlined workflow.
For example, instead of finding out after that fact that the wiring in your new facility is old and unable to accommodate your technology, a wiring upgrade can be worked into the schedule and budget before the project is so far along that it costs you more time and money.
Whether it’s hardware or software, even one piece of aging technology could affect the entire experience of your customers.
Maybe you can’t print a receipt.
Maybe you can’t access their information.
Maybe your website takes too long to load.
Maybe your phone service can’t keep up with demand.
Maybe your customers get frustrated.
Maybe they decide to do business elsewhere.
Software, servers, personal devices (phones, tablets, laptops), network capabilities, storage space…the list could go on. All of these parts of your technology infrastructure work together to facilitate the overall customer experience. And, they all need ongoing monitoring and care.
Part of being proactive involves monitoring, identifying the weak points in your technology and planning for pertinent upgrades. When your internal or external IT provider understands what you need your technology to do, they can make sure it is ready for what’s next.
Contractual/Regulatory RequirementsMany contracts require organizations to meet cybersecurity or other technology commitments. In this case, too, involving your IT support team early on can ensure that there are no surprises when you bid on a contract.
You don’t want to lose out on business because your technology supports are not up to snuff.
Or maybe you work for a medical or law practice. Not only do you have contractual obligations and requirements for data safety, but it's also in your best interest to keep client information safe. You may want to go above and beyond the requirements.
Human ResourcesWhen organizations suddenly needed to accommodate remote work, there were technology considerations and security issues to address. From virtual private networks to multi-factor authentication to bandwidth, technology played a key role in this monumental shift.
Technology also has provided businesses with access to the best and brightest talent across the globe. As the world moves toward the workplace of the future, technology will continue to play an important role in our ability to accommodate the needs of employees no matter their physical location.
These are just a few examples of the role technology integration can play in enhancing the effectiveness of your organization.
Where Do I Start?
Depending on the size of your business, you may have the internal IT resources and skills to handle the technical and time demands required to integrate technology throughout your organization.
If that is the case, proceed methodically to integrate IT into whichever groups or departments make the most sense for your organization.
If you don’t have the resources at your disposal internally, you might want to consider partnering with an external IT support provider. An external support organization with the right skills can provide what you need without the time and expense involved in adding staff.
Related article: Who Needs Managed IT Support Services?
No matter which way you proceed, the important thing is to recognize the benefit of integrating technology throughout your organization. Once you start to reap the rewards, it will become easier to see the places where implementing proactive technology solutions will add value.
At this point, you may be looking for an IT support provider that can help. If you are considering options, we encourage you to compare several providers. We take this advice so seriously that we’ve even done some of the legwork for you. Find out how The Walker Group and Kelser compare head-to-head.
(As consumers ourselves, we know that our first step when buying a critical product or service is to do an internet search. We figure we'd save you a step and provide an unbiased snapshot of publicly available information so you can see for yourself what each organization has to offer.)
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