In today’s rapidly changing business environment, the role of IT infrastructure has expanded beyond improving operational efficiency. The traditional function of IT was to automate basic operations, such as accounting and inventory management, and process data in batches.
However, with the evolution of business decision-making scenarios, it has become increasingly clear that IT can and must play a more significant role in supporting the new thrust of business and strategic planning.
Shifting Focus from Functional to Strategic
The IT infrastructure of yesteryear was confined to functional lines, where its use was limited to basic operations such as payroll accounting, financial accounting, and inventory accounting.
IT captured data from transactions and maintained the integrity of data to be finally placed in a predefined report format after due processing. However, with the changing business landscape, the role of IT is now being recognised as a strategic function that can provide support to business operations and help in perspective planning.
The Role of IT in Business Enterprises
The role of IT has evolved beyond a functional and academic interest to become a strategic function that supports business operations. As a result, discussions regarding the restructuring of business organisations have put IT on the agenda.
To keep up with the changing business landscape, the new expectation of IT is to serve as a key enabler and improve various aspects of business operations such as communication, customer support, strategic planning, manpower reorganisation, and widening of market base, among others.
To facilitate this new role for IT, many companies are transforming their Electronic Data Processing (EDP) departments into business system functions. These departments are now led by managers designated as Manager (Systems) or VP (Systems).
- IT has a strategic role in supporting business operations.
- Discussions regarding the restructuring of business organisations have put IT on the agenda.
- The new expectation of IT is to improve various aspects of business operations such as communication, customer support, strategic planning, manpower reorganisation, and widening of market base, among others.
- Electronic Data Processing (EDP) departments are being transformed into business system functions.
- Managers designated as Manager (Systems) or VP (Systems) lead these business system functions.
Changing Perception of the Role of Systems Manager
The role of the systems manager has also undergone a transformation. It is now perceived as that of a coach, facilitator, and enabler rather than a priest or a gatekeeper. If the marketing personnel is the pilot and the finance personnel a mechanic, the IT professional is paving the road so that the pilot can drive smoothly without having to apply frequent brakes.
Comparison of Traditional and New IT Infrastructure Roles
|Traditional IT Infrastructure Roles
|New IT Infrastructure Roles
|Confined to functional lines
|Expanded role in strategic planning
|Limited to automating basic operations
|Supports communication, customer support, and market base widening
|Captured data from transactions and processed in batches
|Real-time processing and data analysis
|Focused on efficiency and operations
|Supports perspective planning and manpower reorganisation
|Managed by EDP departments
|Transformed into business system functions
IT infrastructure is no longer meant to be used only by internal users but is expected to cater to the needs of a variety of users with diverse objectives. IT’s new role is finding itself on the agenda of discussions regarding restructuring of business organisations. As a strategic function, IT infrastructure is supporting communication, customer support, and market base widening. The role of the systems manager has also undergone a transformation, and they are now perceived as coaches, facilitators, and enablers of business operations.