Information technology (IT) has become a vital and integral part of every business. From multi-national corporations who maintain mainframe systems and databases to small businesses that own a single computer, IT plays a role. This is mainly because businesses rely on systems in so many parts of their operations. They are a critical part of a firm’s communication both internally and externally (e-mail); all inventory management is now automated; data is now stored digitally as gone are the days of large filing cabinets; customers are managed through customer management systems and strategic and operational data is enhanced and produced through management information systems.
IT has many core components. They are responsible for the architecture, hardware, software and networking of computers in a company. What IT does and in some respects how critical it is, will also differ dependent on the industry. A manufacturer will be different from a retailer and different again from a data service provider. If systems are critical to the competitiveness of an organisation, the IT department will play a bigger role (e.g. banks).
More specifically, IT services include:
- Developing and maintaining custom computer software
- Designing new applications and programming code
- Establishing and administering the organisation’s network
- The purchase, installation, maintenance, and upgrading of hardware and software
- Provision of technical support, usually via a help desk
- Provision of training in the use of equipment and software
- Developing, administering and maintaining the organisation’s website.
- Storing & securing electronic information owned by the firm
- Ensuring the security of systems and its data
- Ensuring the firms infrastructure and architecture is stable, secure and up to date
IT workplaces tend to consist of a mix of permanent and contract specialists. Contract staff are often employed for projects while permanent staff support the everyday needs of the organisation.
Here are some of the roles you may find in an IT dept:
A Network Engineer is involved in the design and maintenance of both the hardware and software necessary for a computer network. They are high level technical analysts with a specialty in Local Area Networks (LANs) or Wide Area Networks (WANs).
A Network Administrator is a professional in charge of the maintenance of the computer hardware and software systems that make up a computer network.
Database Administrators use database software to store and manage information. They will often set up database systems and are responsible for making sure those systems operate efficiently and securely.
Application developers translate software requirements into workable programming code and maintain and develop programs for use in business. Most will specialise in a specific development field. The role usually involves writing specifications and designing, building, testing, implementing and sometimes supporting applications using programming languages and development tools.
A systems analyst designs new IT solutions to improve business efficiency and productivity. The work might be for an external client or an internal client (such as a department within the same organisation). Working closely with the client, analysts examine existing business models and flows of data, discuss their findings with the client, and design an appropriate improved IT solution. They act as the liaison between the client and the developers.
Systems developers work on the internal operations of computers, using existing systems or incorporating new technologies to meet particular needs, often as advised by a systems analyst. They test both hard and software systems, and diagnose and resolve system faults. The role also covers writing diagnostic programs and designing and writing code for operating systems and software to ensure efficiency. When required, they make recommendations for future developments.
System Administrators are responsible for maintaining the computer systems of a company. Server management is a primary responsibility, and a System Administrator would be responsible for installing, maintaining and upgrading servers, purchasing hardware and software, providing the ICT technology infrastructures for an organisation and contributing to organisational policy regarding quality standards and strategic planning.
IT Project Manager
A Project Manager is responsible for managing the resources of large projects. This can mean managing large Software Development projects, Networking projects, IT installations or conversions, or any other function where business and technology needs have to be managed and resources have to be coordinated.
Technical authors are also known as information designers, technical writers and technical communicators. They explain technical information in a way that's easy to understand. This involves interpreting technology or applications and then designing and writing documentation. The information may be presented in the form of user guides for software applications, reference manuals, training guides or online help incorporated into software and operating guides.