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LAS VEGAS -- In a constantly changing industry with increasing technological demands many retailers may be exploring going outside the company for their IT needs. So should retailers fire their IT staffs and embrace outsourcing? The simple answer is no. However, when it comes to technology, not everything is simple.
"The best model is a blended, or hybrid, approach to IT management," explained Scott Jordan, founder and CTO of DELTEC Information Solutions. "Both options have benefits the other does not have."
Speaking at NACStech in Las Vegas this week, Jordan explained that the keys to leveraging an integrated IT management team are clearly defining company goals, recognizing and defining core competencies, assessing the systems and determining the management process. But above all, the main factor to a successful integrated approach is review, review, review, he said.
An internal staff offers frontline support, an expertise in the company's business and direct interaction with the staff. In addition, having an internal IT department allows the company oversight of the department, Jordan explained.
External IT staff also comes with benefits: a specialized skill set, an honest assessment of systems, project management and reporting and tracking activities.
However, whether in-house or outsourced, a retailer needs to have an attitude that embraces technology and IT management, and not one that buries its head in the sand. Ideally, Jordan explained, a retailer needs to figure out how to leverage the investment in IT. And when the disconnect between management and IT occurs both sides are to blame, he added.
Oftentimes, IT management can fail if the company carries a narrow view of the field, if executives do not consult the IT department on business decisions until the tail end, and if the company is not willing to invest enough into IT to make it work effectively, Jordan said.
Similarly, IT professionals carry some fault. For example, Jordan explained, IT personnel sometimes work in the moment and do not look at the big picture, they get overwhelmed putting out the latest "fire" and, in some cases, the IT department feels the need to protect their department, which creates roadblocks, he added.
To be successful, both sides need to change their thinking, change their conversation and change the process. Specifically, Jordan explained, starting with the top down executives need to realize that technology is only going to have more of an impact on their business, not less. Also, the two need to learn to understand and speak each other's language. "IT and management speak different languages," Jordan said. "The techie is always talking stuff, stuff, stuff and the CFO is always talking money, money, money. Leadership on both sides need to be literate, if not fluent, in each other's language."
Bridging this chasm solves a lot of problems, he added, if not avoids them altogether.