Various technology solutions can help CIOs reshape their IT departments from commodities to drivers of corporate strategy. Among the tools found to be most effective are:
- mobile and wireless solutions
- self-service portals for employees that reduce help desk burdens for IT
- collaborative tools such as Google Docs and Microsoft SharePoint.
Mobile solutions are one of the most obvious ways in which companies are increasing IT productivity. IT has always been a 24/7 proposition. Mobile products, including laptops and smartphones, facilitate an unprecedented level of remote access. This means IT workers who once had to travel to the office in the middle of the night to fix problems can now handle many issues remotely.
"Being productive on the IT side means providing laptops, smartphones and even iPads," says Peter Graves, senior vice president and CIO of Ionia, Mich.-based Independent Bank, which currently operates more than 100 locations in the state. Giving end-user employees more options to fix their own problems is another way in which some CIOs have increased IT worker productivity. Herleman of Miami-Dade College obviously needs to worry about employees, but he also needs to address the issues students might be having while using the institution's network. The university deployed a help desk tool called Parature. In addition to handling help desk calls, it gives his IT staff the ability to engage in live online chats to quickly answer queries.
This fall, Miami-Dade College will roll out a Facebook integration. When that is complete, students and employees who use the social network will be able to get IT support on the institution's Facebook pages. Each page will offer a knowledge base where students can troubleshoot problems before they call the help desk. "Our students are much more tech-savvy than they've ever been, and thanks to self-help ... they'll find their own answers," says Herleman.
When it comes to collaborative tools, some CIOs we spoke with are comfortable with free services, such as Google Docs, which allows users to collaborate on a document in real time over the Web. However, others say they favor Microsoft SharePoint.