The IT Guy (used as a non-gender reference here, of course) has some serious insight into the nuts and bolts of your company.  You don’t need to brush up on your Battlestar Galactica trivia because the IT Guy is more than your resident Sci-Fi fanatic.  You probably missed a lot of good information because the IT Guy wasn’t included in that meeting. He knows the data, the software, the people who know (and more importantly DON’T know) how to use technology, and how it all works together.  In fact, some people  think the IT department is where you should be looking for the next generation of leaders.

Back in the olden days when dinosaurs roamed the earth, Facebook required a .edu domain, and Apple didn’t own the letter ‘i’, the IT Guy installed the software and fixed the dial-up.  He stayed in his land-o-computers, you stayed in the office and ne’er the twain shall meet. And everyone was happy there.  As data has increased business has become more reliant on technology. The IT Guy is now much more important because he makes all this stuff work together.  He simultaneously is responsible for

1)         Ensuring information is available to everyone who needs it

2)         Backing up the information so if something breaks, your business is still in business

3)         Protecting the information from online sleuths

4)         Planning the future use of IT within your organization

5)         Making sure regulatory measures are in place (e-Discovery, GLBA, Sox)

6)         Performing Vendor Management—sometimes for vendors not even related to IT

7)         Installing software and fixing the dial-up (or the modern day equivalent).

So as your business has become more and more reliant on technology, the responsibilities of the IT Guy have compounded.

Let’s look at a couple scenarios and how the IT Guy will add value to the strategic planning conversation:

Adding a New location

A branch office, new warehouse or retail location can help you expand into new markets or better serve existing customers.  Strategic location is important. Your marketing research may have shown that this was the perfect location but if telecom availability is not adequate you may have very high upfront costs to get the right connectivity.  Additional equipment to compensate for slow connectivity could also drive the cost of the project up.

More than just adding cost, a new location could allow your business to create a more robust disaster recovery plan.  Depending on the distance from headquarters, a secondary site can provide an adequate offsite storage facility for backup tapes, domain controllers, or other servers.  However, if IT is not part of the discussion the architect may not allow enough room or facilities for this.

Selecting a New Vendor

Vendors come in all shapes and sizes, and to some extent their services will probably impact your technology.  Third parties supply the software that drives data, the hardware that hosts it, the communication lines that carry it, the medium to order more of it, etc.  By including IT in the conversation, you may be able to use services already offered by an existing vendor.  Doing so could also allow better service integration to your employees and customers.  There could also be opportunities to access and transfer data to the new vendor through Electronic Data Interface or online ordering systems, decreasing communication time and reducing errors and fraud.

Strategic Planning

There’s a good chance you’re company has a three to five year plan that includes revenue and cost expectations. But have IT considerations been included as well?  As you reach a broader market and more customers, an increase in the use of technology is inevitable. Even without considering growth, your employees almost certainly want to bring their own device, receive email, and increase their productivity on your IT systems. The IT Guy should indeed be part of this conversation.

It’s easy to simply tell the IT department what you want done and expect it to happen.  There should be very few circumstances when a request simply can’t be done. When you’re investing so much time and resources to make good business decisions, you need to have all the facts.  And because IT is inevitably going to be involved, it’s better to invite them sooner rather than later.  Just remember, it’s Star TREK, not TRACK.

Written by: Bryan Newlin, CPA, CISA

Bryan is a Manager with YHB’s Risk Advisory Services group specializing in IT Audit, IT Risk Assessment, Vulnerability and Penetration Testing, and Business Continuity Planning.