For years IT was relegated to being the ‘necessary' department: the one that you had to have around, but not one the executive team was strictly comfortable with.
The last decade has seen massive changes in how businesses treat IT, with the acknowledgement that these teams aren't just necessary, but important - in fact, they are business-critical. And yet still, in many cases, the leadership isn't entirely comfortable when it comes to talking about or to IT - even when it is the team that kept the business running during the COVID-19 crisis. But that makes this the perfect time to engage with senior stakeholders, says Gareth Johns, Senior Director of Vertical Solutions at RingCentral.
In Computing's latest Deskflix virtual event, dedicated to the public sector, Johns told delegates that IT is now visibly at the forefront of business success. Agility is more important than ever in terms of pivoting to the cloud and speed of execution, and demonstrating to leadership that this can be accomplished quickly will make the business more receptive - although, admittedly, they might also ask why similar projects have needed six months or more to complete.
"It's a bit of an unfair situation, but it's demonstrated the value of IT," said Johns. "For organisations that are well on their way in terms of cloud service adoption, it's that that has enabled them to make those changes and that transformation much more quickly. If they had had services in an existing legacy environment, they may not have been able to adapt so quickly and at scale… Senior stakeholders have recognised that and are asking what other transformations can be accelerated."
RingCentral is a unified communications and collaboration (UCC) provider, with experience in the public sector: most recently, it worked with NHS England on the UK's Test and Trace programme. One of the elements IT leaders think about is how to demonstrate value to senior leadership, and Johns described a few ways to go about doing that with UCC tools.
He stressed that businesses are increasingly moving comms platforms out of ‘infrastructure' and into ‘core business application'. That has changed the conversation around value and return on investment, but the need to demonstrate a return still exists and varies depending on the sector and use case.
One of the important aspects around having a cloud-based solution is its scalability. Some organisations will be able to scale an application down to save money, enabling features on an ad hoc basis. A significant advantage to that is flexibility and adaptability, while a drawback might be a lack of budget certainty. RingCentral has been working with customers to build tolerances into contracts, to negate that shock.
Of course, finding the right app in the first place is just as important as performance. You need to know that the app you choose has the right functions for your organisation - and not just your organisation, Johns stressed, but your staff. This is key to ensuring a positive return.
"The right solution is the one that's going to get used; it is as simple as that. There's no point in having a solution that only gets used by part of the organisation, or not at all, or doesn't get used to its fullest extent…
"You need to engage with everyone, from frontline services to finance, to understand their requirements to make sure that is factored in. Let's not be shy, shadow IT is there, there's going to be stuff already in use; let's understand what that is and what the lessons are that we can take from that. Why is that sticky, why have people used that, how do we take it and make it into something that people can use? We can put better corporate governance around it in place where we need to."
Not everyone will use every part of a solution, but it's important to understand the core building blocks and functions they will use: like voice, messaging and video. How do they work, and what do people need? Johns brought up an example from a previous organisation, where a key element of adoption for the Finance department was the ability to send gifs. "As facile as that may sound, that was their key. Other services will have different requirements, but the overarching, key point is to engage across the organisation."
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