The transformation from a traditional IT department to an innovative IT organization

 The classic IT department as a pure cost center in companies has had its day. Rigid structures and little to no authority for the IT manager within the company usually lead to silo thinking in the classic IT department. In today’s blog post, we look at how to break down this silo and digitize and advance companies with the help of modern IT.  

The classic IT department

The classic IT department consists of an IT manager or head of IT and his team. To put it casually: hidden in the basement of the company, the department takes care of maintenance and applications and is usually only contacted when something is not working. If the department does its job so well that everything works as it should, it is hardly noticed.  

Admittedly, this image may be exaggerated and no longer applies to most companies. Nevertheless, a lot needs to change in the minds of many CEOs when it comes to IT.  

The IT manager/head of IT with his or her department comes from a time when information technology was only a part of the company’s processes. This is no longer conceivable today, especially in technology-savvy industries.  

Moving away from the classic IT manager

A classic IT department consists of two basic main areas: the networks/infrastructure area and the applications area. In addition to overseeing day-to-day operational tasks, the strategic alignment of the entire IT landscape has also become critical to the company, for example in terms of competitive disadvantages due to complicated approval processes or an insufficient overview of key figures for the company. Therefore, there is now a need for a C-level that observes the entire development on the market as well as corresponding trends and can map and forecast an overall picture of the IT that is always in the future.    

The IT manager in the classic sense, i.e., subordinate to production, for example, is no longer needed. This is because the purely operational tasks can also be performed by team leaders. 

New structures in the modern IT department

Ideally, there is a team leader for each subarea of IT who is purely responsible for day-to-day operations. These team leaders can act largely independently of each other on a day-to-day basis and coordinate their activities via the “short official channels”.  

For companies with multiple locations, this also has the advantage that the team leaders only need to know the actual conditions prevailing on site, and not strategic or commercial aspects. These are handled by a CTO, for example.  

In the field of information technology, CTO here does not mean a person who deals with the strategic evaluation and alignment of the technical product range or who manages the development of proprietary products.  

Rather, it refers to a position that is concerned with the operational management of the company’s hardware and software assets to maintain production as well as the ability to communicate both internally and externally. It deals with the strategic direction of IT and evaluates and implements tools to optimize the company’s productivity.  

Moving away from pure maintenance

These changes in the organization of the IT department mean that it is no longer purely responsible for maintaining the infrastructure and applications, but becomes an elementary component of the company’s success.

IT as an innovation driver instead of a cost center

If the IT department is seen as a fundamental component of the company’s success, it can become an innovation driver. It focuses on business processes and their digitization and optimization, thus ensuring that companies remain competitive. The modern IT department is a kind of service provider for the respective department and acts flexibly with the involvement of external resources to implement innovations in a timely manner 

Involvement of external resources

Involving external resources makes sense in this constellation of a modern IT department. Often, the existing resources are not sufficient for new digitization projects or the expertise is not deep enough in some specialized areas. Often, the existing IT is also so busy with everyday tasks that there is simply no capacity left for new developments. The trend is therefore away from a rigid department with a permanent staff to a flexible personnel structure that brings in external resources depending on the scope of the project, for example as freelancers or in a nearshoring model.