Elevating IT’s role within the business

The digital transformation wave is causing widespread change across businesses in all industries, with the creation of new business models, revenue streams and innovative services.

Leveraging the capabilities of modern technology is now a question of survival. The world is full of examples of businesses that have been slow to adapt and got behind the curve of innovation and slowed the pace of growth. Equally, those that have risen to the top after finding a way to exploit the potential of ‘digital,’ the most popular examples being the likes of Netflix and Airbnb.

Rising consumer expectations, combined with increased competition and rapid technological advancements, have led to an environment where if you think you’re standing still, you’re probably actually falling behind.

This means organisations must constantly be looking at how they can exploit new ways of working and deliver new services for customers by the widespread move to cloud-based architectures.

To achieve these goals, business leaders have come to realise that the IT department has a vital role to play. And, for forward-thinking companies, this role is no longer consigned to just supportive, back-office functions. The position of IT has been elevated significantly in recent years, now enjoying prominence and strategic recognition across the entire business.

From cost centre to business leader

There was a time when the IT department was largely viewed as a cost centre, a necessary function that performed a valuable role but wasn’t regarded as being central to the business in terms of revenue growth or strategic direction.

 

Traditionally, it was the department of people who were called upon to solve their tech-related questions and deal with administrative issues.

 

Fast forward to 2017 and things have changed significantly. IT teams are now crucial to any business’s future ambitions and have a vital role to play in not only enabling innovation, but shaping strategic direction. Indeed, a massive 97 per cent of respondents to a digital transformation survey carried out by Brocade acknowledged that IT departments are important to enabling the organisation to grow and innovate.

The department is now widely represented at boardroom level and IT teams are often being tasked to lead and inform business strategy. They understand the strategic value of IT related to the industry they are in and are working side-by-side with management to meet business demands.

The simple reason for this is that technology has changed the way businesses work. Most employees now use multiple devices daily, internal business processes are largely controlled through IT applications and customers expect to be able to communicate with organisations through several digital channels, simultaneously.

The common thread through all of this is IT. From network expansion and data management to cyber security and application development, modern IT departments have a hand in virtually all the essential cogs that keep organisations up and running.

Growing in influence

In today’s new world of business, IT is well and truly leading the charge and recent research from Spiceworks has highlighted the increased level of influence IT professionals are enjoying across organisations.

The study revealed that IT Decision Makers (ITDMs) have more influence on major infrastructure purchases than business decision-makers, with 80 per cent evaluating and recommending technology solutions compared to 40 per cent of business decision makers (BDMs).

They are also a more trusted source for strategic insight. When it comes to purchasing decisions, BDMs in EMEA rely more on insights from ITDMs (66 per cent) than from their business peers (44 per cent).

Ultimately, IT decision makers have more purchase influence than business decision makers for nearly all technologies, a clear indicator of their growing presence and the vital role they now play in shaping strategic direction.

Infrastructure and innovation

Given that businesses must now be digital to thrive and survive in today’s landscape, the importance of having access to a robust IT infrastructure cannot be underestimated.

Organisations are relying on their IT departments to be able to develop – or partner appropriately to deliver – an infrastructure that enables them to leverage the capabilities of technologies such as cloud computing (be that public or private), virtualisation and the Internet of Things, all of which have quickly become essential for business success.

The growth of ‘Big Software’ provides a perfect example of the demands being placed on modern infrastructure. Businesses today are relying on the likes of machine learning, big data and OpenStack architectures to stay ahead of the competition and the level of configuration required is unprecedented combined with the need to innovate rapidly and at scale, efficiently managing an infrastructure that enables this is essential.

The amalgamation of these trends has prompted a shift in focus for IT teams. The emphasis is now less geared towards just keeping the lights on and more towards building infrastructure that enables innovation. Whereas in the past IT departments would spend their time thinking about how IT works, they are now more concerned with how IT can support the business to solve specific business problems and meet customer requirements.

Essentially, the distinction between business and IT is becoming ever-more irrelevant. IT is now the businesses in the same way that the business is now IT.

Culture clash?

While a culture of IT empowerment has been successfully created in many organisations, there are still issues that can hinder this transition, especially in large enterprises that don’t have the luxury of starting from a clean slate.

IT professionals now need and deserve a seat at the boardroom table to help build the strategy that will shape their organisation’s future. Equally, IT departments need to be able to justify their growing role and be confident to lead the business forward when it comes to the likes of efficiency and automation.

According to the IDG, IT decision makers now collaborate with an average of 5.8 different functions across the business and enabling this collaboration is essential if today’s technological opportunities are to be realised.

Constant innovation is undoubtedly the order of the day. Is your IT team in a position to make that happen?

Jason Bobb, Senior Vice President of Global Sales and Business Development, Canonical