Innovation, targeting pockets of opportunity and keeping the lights on are the three pillars of every successful IT department. While the first two pillars are often discussed in length, keeping the lights on is seen as something with little added value, often reduced to a pure commodity … like electricity or tap water. While I fully understand and agree with the importance of Innovation and targeting pockets of opportunity, one shall never underestimate the importance of core IT functions and services … something we refer to as keeping the lights on.
In many now-a-day companies, most support and business processes rely heavily on IT systems and environment. Procurement department cannot place orders for needed items and goods without a connection to the internet or intranet of their suppliers, manufacturing units can hardly work if their CNC (robotic) machinery is not programmed or when their ERP systems are off-line, billing departments do not issue invoices written by hand, but rather from a SAP-like system, salaries of your sales representatives are calculated based on their performance that is stored in the company’s data warehouse, brick and mortar shops can hardly sell without their POS systems, on-line shopping is worthless without a well maintained web site.
All companies are affected by the state of their IT systems, some more, some less. Online businesses are kept alive with IT systems, manufacturing industry is dependent on their automated machinery, automotive industry can hardly work without just-in-time supplier chain, financial sector is basically build on data stored on their hard drives.
Just to make the picture more plastic, just imagine your own day without your Smartphone. How long can you ‘survive’ without your mails? Another example, when arriving in your office, you learn that the corporate network is down … how will you check your daily reports? Can you access your files stored on a network drive? Can you work on your projects when your time schedules and to-do’s are stored in your project management tool (that is now offline). Making the story short, WHAT can you do without your IT environment working?
Keeping the lights on is a summary of day-to-day work of your ‘common’ IT staff that makes sure that basic processes of your company can run. As soon as this work is neglected (for whatever reason) the company will soon face serious effect, from lower revenue from your distribution channels, through being not able to fulfil customer’s orders … up to not being able to pay your own employees.
Can you believe that some think that ‘Keeping the lights on’ has no added value for a company?