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The Business Value of IT

By Gina Harris, Director of Information Technology, Talking Rain Beverage Company

The Business Value of IT Gina Harris, Director of Information Technology, Talking Rain Beverage Company

Delivering technology-enabled innovation and accelerating speed to market. Optimizing and automating processes to improve productivity and efficiency. Providing technology training to facilitate collaboration, teamwork and secure computing. Leveraging data to providing insights into what’s happened in the past and why, and what could happen in the future and how. These are examples of the business value delivered by Talking Rain Beverage Company’s information technology team.  

We rely on these basic tenets to guide our actions: 
1. Buy vs Build, Subscribe vs Host
2. Source Commodity Services Externally
3. Build a Nimble Operating Model
4. Simplify
5. Align with the Business Strategy
6. Recruit and Retain the Right IT Talent  

1. Buy vs Build, Subscribe vs Host

As a beverage company, our needs are generally met by packaged systems readily available on the market. Developing and sustaining custom systems is costly and risky, so we buy vs build the systems we need. Furthering that premise, there’s no reason for us to invest in hardware and data center infrastructure. We look for Software as a Service solutions to meet our needs wherever we can so we don’t bear the burden of capital investments for hosting, and/or the resources required to apply vendor fixes, patches and new releases. For those systems that aren’t offered in a subscription model, we use Microsoft's Azure Platform as a Service for hosting.  

2. Source Commodity Services Externally

Managed cloud hosting services. Managed security services. Managed network services. Managed EDI services. Managed print services. Managed telecom services. At Talking Rain, we source commodity IT services externally because frankly companies specializing in providing these services do so better than we can.

Given these services are their core business, they provide more depth on the bench for technical expertise and round the clock coverage.  Sourcing commodity services from experts frees up our team to focus on differentiating capabilities and services.  

Developing and sustaining custom systems is costly and risky, so we buy instead of building the systems

3. Build a Nimble Operating Model

Each business unit has pent up demand for technology-enabled processes. We’re investing at an unprecedented pace, but staying in-step with demand requires responding with an appropriate sense of urgency.

We help by consulting with business units to discern their needs, formally documenting their business requirements, searching the market for innovative solutions, and developing business cases for technology acquisition. We contract seasoned project managers to use agile approaches to deliver features at a fast, but iterative pace so end users can more easily learn and successfully use them. 

4. Simplify

We seek opportunities to simplify the business of delivering technology innovation and capabilities via fewer, broader scope systems. We exploit all the features of our technology investments to link and connect business units on the same systems. We are primarily a Microsoft shop. From Dynamics NAV and CRM, to Power BI and Office 365, we find ways to exploit system features to meet the needs of many business units. This approach lets us hone deeper technical skills in fewer systems, which lets us provide better service to the business. We apply the same philosophy when working with technology partners, looking for those offering solutions and services that meet a wide spectrum of our needs. Working on richer relationships with fewer partners saves time dedicated to vendor management and allows us to leverage our buying power for better pricing.

5. Align with the Business Strategy

Plenty of requests reach our team through assorted channels – the help desk ticketing system, hallway conversations, emails, favors called in. We pride ourselves in maintaining a laser sharp focus on filtering and prioritizing requests based on their service to our overall business strategy and roadmap.

It’s incumbent on us to break through the noise and apply our limited resources to those initiatives that will transform our business and help us achieve our goals and objectives. Sure, there are times when a business skunkworks project makes sense, but it still requires an earnest review of relevancy to our overall business strategy. We’re more than order takers; we’re business consultants bringing technology to solve problems and enable bold moves toward competitive advantage.    

6. Recruit and Retain the Right IT Talent

Easier said than done. Let it be known that internal IT departments in non-technology companies offer an interesting value proposition to their teams. Those wanting to pursue strictly technical careers may be best served by working for technology companies. Those interested in transforming a business, and who revel in the opportunity to affect change at what can seem like warp speed, will be rewarded. Our team works with lots of innovative technologies serving the needs of all business units - research & development, sales, marketing, public relations, supply chain, finance, legal, human resources and so on. This variety, coupled with the pace of change and the magnitude of impact, is appealing to many. Our recruiting efforts target candidates with a mix of business acumen and technical skills. In all cases, we place a high value on soft skills. We seek candidates with excellent people skills, critical thinking, high energy, creativity, patience, initiative, resourcefulness, and a collaborative approach to working with others.  

Recently IT worked closely with our sales organization to deliver Microsoft Surface Pro 4 devices in exchange for their laptops. In addition to saving a full day each week by eliminating time-consuming admin tasks, our reps use their Surfaces to access critical information in real time, enhancing their customer service and allowing them to close deals. Interfacing with customers in the aisle of a retail store is easier with Surfaces. Sharing information is faster, it’s presented professionally, and taking notes with the stylus makes the conversation with the customer take center stage, not the technology. The sales team is thrilled! That reinforces IT’s commitment to affecting positive change and delivering business value.

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