10 Strategies to Streamline IT Operations and Cut Costs

Updated: December 11, 2007

Issue

IT has come a long way over a remarkably short span of time. Once viewed as just a necessary business expense, IT departments have gradually morphed into profit centers that help businesses operate more effectively and efficiently. By tapping into IT expertise, companies are able to explore new and more profitable ways of doing business while receiving greater insight into existing processes.

Here's a quick look at 10 ways that IT can contributes to business success.

Strategies

1. Identify new technologies. IT can help a business stay on top of the competition by helping management find and deploy useful new hardware, software and services. Powerful technologies, such as VoIP, RFID (radio-frequency identification), mobile devices, electronic spreadsheets, email and word-processing applications can all be traced back to IT departments and their tech-savvy experts.

2. Open fresh markets. Technology helps businesses explore potential new markets by providing the cost, benefit-demographic, geographic and other tactical information managers need to make accurate business decisions.

3. Supply knowledge storage and access. If an employee has a business question, he or she will probably use an IT department-supplied tool to find the answer. Whether it means querying a sales database, a business-intelligence knowledge base or Google, there's usually an IT offering available to find a quick answer to a pressing question.

4. Support sales and marketing efforts. IT, in the form of CRM applications, helps businesses forge stronger relationships with customers and business partners. IT is also a critical force in powering call centers and mobile sales forces.

5. Provide promotional expertise. If a business needs to open a Web site, run an email marketing campaign or distribute free software, it typically turns to its IT department to provide the required technical expertise.

6. Enhance education and training. Most businesses can't afford to hire full-time teachers and trainers. But IT systems can provide sophisticated employee education and training anytime, anywhere by feeding content directly to workstations. The result is a more educated, better trained work force at a fraction of the cost of traditional instruction methods.

7. Automate accounting and finance. IT saves money and frees time by automating a myriad of business-accounting and finance services. IT lets business track payments, receipts and inventory levels, as well as analyze results and forecast trends.

8. Improve production. Businesses that manufacture products are increasingly relying on computer-assisted and -controlled manufacturing technologies, ranging from design applications to drilling machines to robotic assembly lines. IT can also deliver crucial data directly to managers and workers on the factory floor, helping employees optimize processes and catch mistakes before serious damage occurs.

9. Expedite logistics. For any company that needs to move goods from one location to another, IT can provide solutions — such as GPS, RFID and transportation-management systems — that allow better scheduling, tracking, document management and regulatory compliance.

10. Streamline office operations. This is a no-brainer, and the reason why businesses invested in IT departments in the first place. At the dawn of the 21st century, it's impossible to imagine a business using antiquated devices like adding machines, typewriters, manual filing systems and rotary-dial telephones. Yet these now-obsolete technologies were all widely used only two or three decades ago. Considering a business's reliance on technology, a case can be made that the IT department is not only not a cost center but perhaps a business's most important profit center.

The Bottom Line

Your business's IT department can do more than fix malfunctioning computers and set up new phone lines. As illustrated above, IT staffers' skills and expertise can streamline your business processes and even cut costs in strategic areas. Make sure you pay attention to and apply these tips in your organization to make the most out of your IT resources.

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