Much talk surrounds the importance of aligning IT with corporate divisions. In order to increase the recognized value of the information technology department, it must work with the other divisions within the company. The dilemma is that IT is often seen as a cost centre rather that delivering value to the organization; one of the critical challenges that the IT department faces. As a result, this is also one of the key challenges that IT resellers, solution providers, and vendors face daily.
Many options exist as to how to outline the value. Aligning with the sales and customer service departments, for example, can contribute to improved client relations, thereby increasing customer satisfaction and retention. Demonstrating the value with the supply chain or inventory management division helps improve the flow of goods.
Common to all organizations is the human resources department. The HR division is also commonly viewed as a cost centre, and yet is significant to the overall health and wellbeing of organizations. It is also a department that can help save money for the organization. In Info-Tech’s report note “IT and HR: The Next Business Alignment Front” the objective of aligning the two departments is outlined.
The two main benefits that IT brings to the HR department are security and regulatory compliance. Enabling secure access rights to confidential HR data is critical. The IT department ensures the corporate HR system has secure and protected access rights. The two must also work together to ensure that the HR systems meet requirements such as HIPAA and SOX, the second main benefit of IT, being regulatory compliance and control. The IT department must ensure the HR system complies with federal and provincial laws, internal union rules and any such legislative policies that impact the workforce.
As many organizations within Canada do not have internal IT departments, these roles often fall into the hands of the IT solution provider.
Putting these benefits into practise can be challenging. Two main recommendations emerged from this study:
1. IT must form a partnership with the HR department. The expertise found between the two departments forms a strategic alignment in driving success within organizations. IT can ensure that HR systems are cost-effective, maintainable, and integrated with other enterprise applications. HR drives process decisions, while IT makes it happen.
2. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly in the age of intellectual value, IT and HR need to work closely on employee on-boarding and off-boarding. Human-capital management is becoming an increasingly important issue, including recruiting, retirement, and performance management. New employees must be brought on board in an effective manner, and they must be off-boarded in a way that the corporation maintains the value of their intellectual capital. IT can help make that happen.
3. The IT department, be it internal or external, has to clearly demonstrate its value on a regular basis. The HR department touches all employees. Through combining forces, the IT department can strategically increase its value within the organization. Raising its profile is critical to the success of the corporation.
Michelle Warren is a senior analyst with the London, Ont.-based Info-Tech Research Group.