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As cloud, mobility and virtualization deployments continue, there's an opportunity for IT to play a more active role in driving new business growth. It's a daunting transformation for IT, and it won't happen overnight.
Efficient or innovative?
While driving revenue was an early goal of IT, over time the job shifted to modernization as information technology seeped into virtually every business activity, leaving precious few cycles for anything else.
"Most businesses today primary rely on IT to increase their organizational efficiency," says Bask Iyer, CIO at Juniper Networks. That's an improvement from say, 10 years ago, when IT was seen primarily as a money pit. However, "IT is largely falling short of expectations to drive growth in new areas," he says.
Juniper sponsored a study conducted by the Economist Intelligence Unit that asked 474 IT and business executives from the U.S., Germany, Japan and the U.K. about how the role of IT is changing. When survey respondents were asked to describe the primary job of IT, their top three answers were telling: to improve efficiency in business processes (cited by 52%); to fix hardware and software issues (32%); and to improve security to mitigate potential IT-related threats (25%).
Very few businesses said they're successfully collaborating with IT on strategic initiatives such as identifying new market opportunities (9%), identifying new innovations (6%) and developing a competitive strategy (5%).
To change that, IT practitioners need to come out from behind the scenes, get to know the line-of-business executives and end users, and become more collaborative, Iyer says.
Preconceptions will have to be overturned. Business executives have given IT low marks when it comes to enabling and supporting innovation, Mann says. Many don't think IT has the right skills, and tech folks don't have a reputation for being receptive to new ideas from the business.
Making changes "starts with convincing your peers that you can help drive innovation, that you're more than just a service department, more than just a butler to the business groups," Mann says.
It's important for IT to demonstrate a willingness to consider cloud computing, for instance, for its speed and agility -- even if it means giving up control. "Show them you're ready to adopt mobile technologies, and support bring-your-own-device. Stop saying no to all these things," Mann says.
If you don't, business executives will take matters into their own hands. In some cases they already have, by buying their own mobile devices and inking contracts for cloud services without going through IT.
This concept of rogue IT shows up more in headlines than in reality, but the threat should still serve as a wakeup call. "You can get in front of it, find the best options, and present those to your business peers," Mann says. That won't eliminate the threat, but mapping out how IT can be "better, safer, cheaper, and easier to manage" than alternatives will reduce the desire to seek options.