What does the IT department actually do?

The IT department: what they do vs what everyone thinks they do

With the level of technological integration into nearly every facet of life and business, it’s practically essential for companies, large or small, have an Information Technology, or IT, department to handle all the technological issues that arise.

Most of us probably don’t know much about the IT department beyond the fact that they’re the ones who occasionally come by to install new software or fix computer-related problems. And while those are among IT’s general responsibilities, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. The truth is, the IT department does much of their work behind the scenes, and may be much more integral to your company’s success than you realize.

 

Overview of IT Department Responsibilities

One of the biggest drivers of a successful business is efficiency, and the ability to automate routine tasks is a great way to increase overall efficiency. By and large, the IT department is responsible for providing the infrastructure for this automation.

At an even more basic level, by implementing the governance for the use of network and operating systems, the IT department enables the company’s employees to communicate, collaborate and automate routine tasks, and generally provide teams with the functionality they need to perform their duties.

It's important to note that although the IT department implements and facilitates the flow of information, it doesn't create the policy that defines which information is correct or accessible to others.

Here are a few of the things the IT department does besides reboot your computer:

 

The Three Major IT Functions

 

  • Governance refers to the implementation of operational parameters for working units and individuals' use of IT systems, architecture, and networks. In layman’s terms, they enact the rules about how you and your team can use the company’s technology and what you can use it for. This is part of the conventional IT security as well as the data assurance for which the IT department is also responsible.
  • Infrastructure refers to the hardware components, the network, the circuitry and all other equipment necessary to make an IT system function according to the established needs and system "size" of the company.
  • Functionality is perhaps the most visible task performed by the IT department, and therefore what they’re most commonly associated with in many workers’ minds. It refers to creating and maintaining operational applications; developing, securing, and storing electronic data that belongs to the organization; and assisting in the use of software and data management to all functional areas of the organization.

IT Network Responsibilities

The IT department oversees the installation and maintenance of computer network systems within a company. This may only require a single IT employee, or in the case of larger organizations, a team of people working to ensure that the network runs smoothly.

The IT department must evaluate and install the proper hardware and software necessary to keep the network functioning properly. As this involves working within a budget allocated to the department for network devices and software, the IT department must make sure that the equipment it invests in will optimally serves the needs of the company without going over budget.

Networks can be simple or extremely complex depending upon their size and composition. In addition to staying current on trends within business technology, IT employees may require college degrees in a computer field to adequately handle the issues that arise in maintaining such a network.

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Network Contingencies

Should a network system go down, the repercussions can be costly -- not just to the company and its operations, but outside entities that require products or services from the company. These outside entities could be affected and lose faith in the company's ability to provide them with what they need. The IT department must put a crisis plan in place that can be implemented should the system go down. It must be designed to put the network back up quickly or allow it to switch over to an alternate system until the necessary repairs are completed.

Through the maintenance and planning of a network system, the IT department must forge professional relationships with outside vendors and industry experts. This helps the department employees perform their duties more efficiently as well as stay current on the latest technology that might be beneficial to the company for which they work.

Application Development

Quite often, companies see the main role of the IT department as creating the applications that serve its core business needs. The right applications allow a business to be innovative, more productive, efficient, and to move ahead of its competitors. In many ways, this makes the IT department crucial in driving a business forward.

The work necessary to create the applications that can set a business apart from the others requires an IT department with programmers, analysts, interface designers, database administrators, testers, and other professionals.

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Communication

Most people are aware that the IT department is responsible for the success of computer operations and other information technologies within a business. However, as many new forms of electronic communication have become staples of the modern office, IT departments have been taking on a greater role in the technical side of company communication. This includes point to point phone calls, conference calls, and video and web conferences, as well as less direct forms of electronic communication like network drives, email systems, and secure servers.

The IT department must fully understand how these systems work and interact with each other, and is responsible for ensuring that these systems remain operational at all times.

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Company Website

The IT department is at least partially responsible for creating and maintaining the company's website. While the content and design of the site may be handled by another department – often Marketing – IT typically creates the code and works with other departments to test the site for usability.

Technical Support

The IT department provides this service for all the users who need access to the company's computer systems. This might entail installing new software or hardware, repairing hardware that has become faulty, training employees in the use of new software, and troubleshooting problems with the system or with an individual's computer.

It's apparent that not all the IT department does is apparent - it creates and maintains many systems that go unseen or get taken for granted by employees, creates emergency response plans to protect the business from unforeseen problems, and constantly works to improve the entire company’s ability to function efficiently and effectively.

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