The Changing Role of IT – Who Has Time for That?
Type “changing role of IT” into Google and you’ll get close to half a million hits. There’s no shortage of online discussion on this topic. You can learn how IT is transforming from a technology gatekeeper to a service broker, how the CIO is changing from a plumber to a producer, or how IT is changing from “the infrastructure team” to “the next big idea team,” to name a few. In short, IT is being called upon to be the innovators.
All of this sounds very enticing, doesn’t it? Not only is IT becoming increasingly important to the success of any organization; the field of IT is becoming much more interesting and exciting. All signs are that this is a great time to be in IT.
Credit unions are no exception to this rule. For years I’ve been saying that technology is the great equalizer among financial institutions. With the right tech investment, any credit union of just about any size can compete with the biggest banks in the country.
What’s changed over the years, however, is that having a solid technology investment today means more than buying the right software package, installing it on a server, and maintaining it. Today’s C-level credit union executives look to IT to come up with inventive solutions that are tailored to the specific needs of the credit union. In other words, the modern IT shop doesn’t just maintain; it creates. All of the Google results I mentioned above point to this very fact.
Any of these articles will tell you what you should be transforming your IT operation into, but in my opinion, not enough words are devoted to how you’re actually supposed to get there. Remember all those tedious, manual processes that seem so out of fashion in this new world? Surprise! They still need to get done. There are still plenty of mind-numbing maintenance tasks that technology workers need to complete.
I’m willing to bet that your CEO, upon realizing how essential it is that you transform IT, didn’t double your budget or tell you to hire 10 extra employees. No, for better or worse, that old adage of “do more with less” still haunts us. Chances are you’re expected to broker, produce and come up with the next big idea, and continue to maintain the old systems and processes, all with the same staff and same budget.
That sounds impossible, doesn’t it? Suddenly the glamorous, new world of IT isn’t so glamorous.
This is when you need to start thinking about IT automation. When many people think of automation, they picture long assembly lines – or maybe they even picture Lucy and Ethyl in the candy factory. Those who are a little more tech savvy might think I’m talking about job scheduling software. I’m not. Comparing job scheduling to full IT automation is like comparing a Happy Meal to dinner at your favorite steakhouse.
If a task or process is mundane and repetitive, chances are it can be automated. I know of one credit union that moved from a job scheduler or a full-blown IT automation package and in doing so went from maybe 15 automated processes to more than 4,000. What’s more, they made this transformation in about four months.
For example, this credit union had made several previous attempts – using several different products – to automate ACH processing. The credit union finally decided it was futile, and accepted that they would need to bring an operator in at 5 a.m. every day to run this process. Now, thanks to robust IT automation, the credit union has fully automated its ACH processing, eliminated human errors, and has given one lucky operator some extra time in bed.
Likewise, this same credit union was able to automate its end-of-day processing. This six-hour thrill ride was also run manually and, as such, also required the attention of a human operator during very early hours. In this environment, one human error could easily compound itself into several other errors. By deploying an automation solution that can run non-dependent tasks concurrently, the credit union not only fully automated its end-of-day processing; it reduced the total run time from six hours to five.
The thing to remember is that the time you save by automating is incremental. Automate one process and you may only save a few minutes. Automate 4,000 processes and suddenly you’ve freed up hours and hours of time. As a case in point, the credit union I mentioned earlier was able to automate about 70% of its IT workload, eliminate weekend shifts, and reduce headcount.
The bottom line is this: Innovation doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Somehow you need to make it happen in the middle of all the daily hubbub – using the same resources and same budget as before, all the while maintaining the same systems and processes as before. The only way to make sure your employees have the time to stay focused on the strategic is to make sure you have the right IT automation software focused on the tactical. This way, everybody wins.