Why we are ALL the IT department!
Our main IT guy has been on leave recently. It got me thinking about the extent to which we are, or are not, dependent on the traditional ‘IT Department’ for our day-to-day needs. Things used to be very black and white. If you needed IT support, someone from the IT Department would help you. They would (hopefully) fix your problem and you could once again turn your attention to focusing exclusively on your work. IT was someone else’s problem. You, were the IT Department’s problem.
Now, however, it seems that we all comprise the IT Department. Here’s why…
At some point during the past however many years, there was a shift towards ‘bring your own device’ or ‘BYOD’ culture. I guess this happened at some point after dial-up broadband faded from view, but before Twitter matured out of infancy.
Even though this has not necessarily become a wholesale trend when it comes to laptops and desktops, there has certainly been a surge in smaller mobile devices – such as personal smartphones and tablets – being used for business purposes.
This trend has brought with it a set of liabilities that we all need to play a role in countering. We all need to be agents of the IT Department.
Don’t be fobbed off
People are out to get us, right? Or, if not us, then our data. So we need to take a multi-layered approach to security.
A key part of that often hinges on team members using an authentication app on their mobile phones, to facilitate multi-factor authentication. We don’t necessarily expect the IT Department to provide us with individual security fobs anymore. Instead, we all play our role, using the devices we already have.
Who doesn’t love a quizzy quiz? As standards such as ISO 27001 and SOC2 become more ubiquitous, so too does the need to demonstrate that everyone in the organisation is an information security savvy player. So you might find yourself subject to routine cyber awareness training, or anti-phishing education. The IT Department is only as strong as the weakest link. Don’t be ‘that guy’ (in the non-gender-specific sense of the term).
Fashion your own tools
Who builds the tools your team needs to get things done? Chances are, you do! Once you’ve exhausted the limits of documents and spreadsheets, you might want to explore databases, collaboration platforms and workflow automation tools to get things done. These days, it’s pretty easy to build your own work tools using platforms such as Notion, Airtable, Podio or myriad others. What you do not need to do (at least not in the first instance) is wait years for the traditional IT Department to build what you need. You ARE the IT Department. Get building.
Consumerise your work tools
Business applications have had to learn fast from consumer apps. The last decade has seen us using all sorts of apps and software in our personal lives, be it for social, personal productivity or lifestyle contexts. The battle for the best user experience is fiercely fought, and we bring our expectations of a frictionless consumer user experience with us to the workplace. Hence business applications have necessarily become more browser-based, friendlier to use and less likely to go wrong or crash. This reduces our dependence on Moss from the IT Department needing to visit our desk and upgrade our version of Microsoft whatever.
Fix your own mess
If you have a specific problem with your software, or even your hardware, the chances are you’re not alone. Someone somewhere else on the internet has had that same issue, and it’s a safe bet that they will have documented it. One of the greatest benefits (and, arguably, greatest dangers) of the web is the democratisation and dissemination of knowledge. You can find out how to do anything, make anything or fix anything within just a few minutes. You can fix your own IT issues. There are, of course, innate dangers in this approach, but nonetheless, you can be your own IT Department; rightly or wrongly.
So there we have it. The IT Department is at once everywhere and nowhere. It is not one of us, but all of us. We do, of course, still need to lean heavily on the department for specialist tasks, information security policy and leadership. But in terms of day-to-day execution, it’s down to all of us.