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What an IT Department Does

Almost all companies, large or small, have an Information Technology (or IT) department that handles all the technical issues that arise. Generally, they may be viewed as the guys and gals who reboot the system or come to your station to reinstall new software. Although they perform these tasks from time to time, they're actually much more vital to the success of a business; they complete many more tasks behind the scenes than people are aware of. Here's what the IT department does.

IT Department Overview of Responsibilities

In an overall sense, the IT Department is responsible for providing the infrastructure for automation. It implements the governance for the use of network and operating systems, and it assists the operational units by providing them the functionality they need.

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.

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. The governance of the master data is based on workflow processes that integrate business rules and subject matter domain expertise. 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 apparent task performed by the IT department. 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. Its primary function is 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. This includes working within a budget that allocates the amount of money the company can afford on network devices and software. The IT department must make sure that the equipment it invests in both 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, employees may require college degrees in a computer field to adequately handle the issues that arise in maintaining such a network.

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 applications that serve their 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 to the success of a business.

The expertise 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. These employees become quite knowledgeable about the operations of the business itself. As a result, they become valuable to other departments outside of IT.

Expansion of Responsibilities

Telephony

Most people are aware that the IT department focuses on the success of computer operations and other information technologies needs within a business. However, with many new forms of electronic communication replacing older technology, communication is being redefined and is now referred to as "telephony." This includes point to point phone calls as well as conference calls. Video and web conference also fall under this category and include other forms of technology necessary to facilitate communication: network drives, electronic mail (email), and secure servers.

The IT department must fully understand how these systems work and interact with each other. The department must also ensure that these systems remain operational at all times.

Company Website

The IT department is responsible for creating and maintaining the company's website. It designs the layout, creates the code, and tests the site for usability. Depending upon the needs of the company, the IT department can design the site for information only, or create a completely interactive commercial site that can sell products directly to consumers.

Technical Support

Employees are familiar with having to contact the IT department for computer 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 so many systems that go unseen or unrecognized by employees. These services, however, are integral to the success of a business. Though they may not be appreciated when business is running smoothly, their importance is greatly recognized when something goes wrong.

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