Driving Business Innovation Through Technology and a Strategic Partnership with IT

Bob Udell, President and CEO, Consolidated Communications
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To be competitive in today’s rapidly changing marketplace, organizations must create an environment, which incents and rewards innovation in a way that accelerates improvements in the experience they provide customers as well as their products and services. Effectively deployed technology is a critical enabler of that innovation, and a flexible, well-developed IT infrastructure, coupled with a solid business strategy, forms the foundation for transformational growth. Easily said, but not as easily done.

While it is clear that technology must be at the center of innovation, IT itself can be viewed as a barrier to innovation. Historically, IT has often been viewed as a cost center rather than the powerful profit enabler that enhances revenue and results. Admittedly, and from experience, it can be difficult to forego past investments made in technology infrastructure and yet, delaying can cause friction with internal users and customers who have high demand for infrastructure that delivers new functionality and ease of use for customers.

As companies work to maintain increasingly complex IT infrastructure, innovation can often take a back seat to operational tasks, with today’s demands taking precedence over tomorrow’s plans. Often, it takes leaders within both IT and the line of business to identify the solution to a business challenge and build a collective plan that both can support. Organizations that have achieved this level of cooperation can implement new IT infrastructure and put it to use much more quickly and effectively than organizations in which there is contention between IT and line operations. As a leader, finding this balance is incredibly important in today’s business environment. To achieve this, it requires one to raise the level of planning and strategy discussion to include an IT visionary that both understands how your business generates its revenue and what pain points exists in your efforts to deliver on your promises to customers.

Change can often be a challenge both for individuals and for organizations. However, once a business has defined these internal and external “pain points’ and incorporated solving them into its strategy and improvement processes, this same business will start to realize the benefits of change. At the same time, it will develop an organization-wide appreciation for, and attraction to innovation. Line management will increasingly treat IT as a partner, and IT will become an integral part of the planning process rather than only positioned to put out fires.

  ​The multi-faceted challenge includes the management of secure applications, data, devices, and networks while leveraging technology to support innovation 

In today’s market-centered environment, getting closer to customers is ever more critical as they demand more, better, and faster information and higher levels of ongoing engagement to meet their needs. Instead of individual transactions, companies and customers can develop relationships, with IT being essential to maintaining contact and supporting ongoing interaction. A collaborative approach, including IT, business leaders, and an experienced partner ensures an accurate understanding of business challenges and development of a proactive approach to meeting them. This enables an organization to focus in a more meaningful way on infrastructure and using it to meet the needs of their core business.

One of the most readily usable tools for IT today is the range of cloud services available for almost immediate implementation. Cloud offerings let companies innovate and provide tangible value for the organization on a more predictable and incremental investment basis, effectively allowing companies to pay as they go. Cloud Services can help simplify technology and streamline business processes, allowing a business to deepen rapport with its customers and better compete and succeed in the marketplace. With a flexible, reliable, secure cloud business platform in place, IT can focus resources on longer term planning and growth opportunities as well as higher-level strategic challenges like security.

One of the biggest current and future challenges continues to be security. Within or outside of the Cloud, security and data protection continue to generate concern in an increasingly complex IT landscape. As networks are strained with more applications and higher-bandwidth content, and as IT functions are dispersed across a growing number of platforms and devices, every aspect of the infrastructure, from servers to data storage to both wired and wireless networks, must be available to those who need it and protected from those who should not have access. In addition, even today’s best security is sure to face challenges as criminals, vandals, and hackers continue to hone their craft and improve their tools.

There is the squeeze: employees, customers, and even suppliers need increased access to company information and systems. At the same time, bad actors are constantly working to find and exploit weaknesses in those same systems for their own purposes. An IT department in yesterday’s reactive mode cannot expect to get out ahead of those challenges, either the positive demands of customers or the negative threats of those who would do harm.

Keeping data protected and secure while still accessible is crucial whether that infrastructure resides at the customer site, in a hosted environment, or in a private or public cloud. When we think about all of the places where our data and applications reside, it is clear that the secure and available network remains a crucial piece of the equation.

There is nothing simple about the balancing act IT professionals perform every day. The multi-faceted challenge includes the management of secure applications, data, devices, and networks while leveraging technology to support innovation, fuel growth, and build trust and relationships in the market. The key is to identify strategic goals, honestly assess where your organization is at, recognize your strengths, and acknowledge weaknesses, large or small, existing or emerging. Then identify experienced, field-tested partners that can help fill the gaps so your organization can focus, not on the technology itself, but on ways to utilize that technology to accomplish your strategic goals.

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