When IT takes the role of a partner to the business, rather than as a technology consultant or supplier of IT services, the benefits are remarkable.
According to a McKinsey survey on business technology, IT organizations that play a partner role by engaging the business to shape an overall business strategy that effectively leverages technology tend to perform better in many arenas, including the delivery of core services and the creation of a healthy organizational culture.
While most respondents believe IT should be a partner to the business, few say IT plays that role today.
As the CIO of Florida State College at Jacksonville, Christopher Markham has taken the lead in aligning technical and business value at the educational institution.
"I believe that in most organizations, there is already a seat at the table for CIOs," Markham said.
"The question is whether or not they take it. It's possible for any IT organization to transform into more than just the overseer of the IT infrastructure," he said.
How is this accomplished?
CIOs need to develop business analysts and process experts who can provide them with information needed to make impactful decisions. However, knowledge is not enough.
"We need to empower our people to create unique solutions for our most pressing business problems by synthesizing knowledge gained from many different places," he said.
CIOs can create significant competitive advantages through strategic use of cloud-based services and applications, be they public, private or hybrid. Along with big data and the Internet of things, these technologies will help accomplish broad business goals such as driving revenue growth, targeting new markets and improving customer service. The CIO and IT department can be more strategic about making users more productive and relieving them of many of the mundane and time-wasting administrative tasks that can consume an entire workday.
"This is very different from the CIO's traditional role of focusing only on maintaining the IT infrastructure and operations," he said.
The McKinsey survey results also suggest that the pressure on IT to perform will increase with the growth of third-party services, such as cloud and infrastructure as a service, and of digitization. With digital initiatives, the companies where IT plays a partner role are further along in both implementation and achieving business impact.
Nearly all surveyed executives said finding talent is a challenge and a possible longer-term barrier to improving IT.
At organizations where IT is a partner, respondents are more than three times likelier than all others to say that the IT function is very or completely effective at implementing bottom-up innovation and at creating a healthy IT culture.