360IT: Smart IT needs heroes

Information technology is now central to almost every organisation's success. Without it, we'd be in the technology dark ages, writes ex-CIO Denise Plumpton.

Information technology is now central to almost every organisation's success. Without it, we'd be in the technology dark ages. In my role as a non-executive director for the 360°IT event, we commissioned a survey of more than 1,000 office workers to find out what they thought about IT, and 89% of them said that IT at work made their jobs easier and more productive. And a staggering 91% of workers said that they had been given the right IT tools to do their jobs. So we must be doing something right.

When we asked the workers what smart IT was, more than half of them said they think it is about having secure and reliable access to the things they need when and where they need them. Almost one=third, meanwhile, said that smart IT is about allowing them to collaborate with customers and partners. And only 18% said that smart IT was a smart device like - yes, you guessed it - the latest smartphone or tablet PC.

Where smart IT is about a technology device, it is about one that services its owner's need in a superlative fashion. The Apple iPhone and iPad fall into this category: they're stylish, they are attractive and are desirable forms of consumer and business technology.

And most importantly, they do what it says on the tin. And very well too. They achieve this by being incredibly flexible on the programming front. It's the software that drives what are, essentially, a 'soft' and highly programmable phone and tablet computing family.

Smart IT is that mix of style and substance. It is about meeting the needs of users. It is about excellence.

Smartphones are desirable objects and they really do help people to do their jobs better. But it goes deeper than this, as our 360°IT event survey also found: 61% of people said they would value being given a smartphone or shiny new PC as an incentive.

But then, who wouldn't? Yes, we really are that shallow. Or are we? I believe people actually aspire to do better and realise that the best tools will achieve better results in their endeavours.

This is what smart IT is about. It's about using technology to do your job better - and improve your leisure time too, as doing your job better means being more efficient.

Smart IT can help create a better work and life-style for people - we're not talking evangelism here. IT departments really can make a difference, but to do this, they need to get the message across to their business colleagues about what they are doing and what is possible with the right technology in place.

To use today's smart IT in a smarter way, we need to make our technology systems more user-friendly and this comes down to better programming, and better systems design.

This change is not going to happen overnight, but the good news is that the building-blocks for smart IT and smart usage of that IT are already firmly in place.

In the longer term smart IT will eventually mean that most companies will not need a full time IT help desk. If the technology that we use on a daily basis always worked - like cars do - then we'd be using an IT version of the AA, and would no longer need an in-house IT helpdesk. That would mean we can devote more time and resources on the new technologies and exciting projects that will help drive the business forward.

Smart IT, then, can bring a lot of positive things to us all. It is how we relate to smart IT, and how we interact and communicate the message that smart IT is so wonderful to our business, that will move us up in the efficiency stakes.

Denise Plumpton is non-executive director for 360°IT and previously executive director of information at the Highways Agency, and also CIO at both Powergen (now part of E.On) and TNT UK & Ireland.

To find out more about how organisations are using Smart IT, visit the 360°IT event which takes place 22-23 September at Earls Court, London.

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