Traditionally, IT has been known as the function that “keeps the lights on” at organizations, reacting to infrastructure issues as they arise. But today, IT has entered into a new era — one that 75% of tech leaders say represents the biggest historical shift of its role, according to new insights from Salesforce’s second annual “State of IT” research report.
No longer considered burdensome “cost centers,” leading IT departments are breaking boundaries to become more ingrained with the business, playing fundamental roles in how other departments execute on customer-centric data and processes. Underscoring the importance of their new mandate to drive close alignment with the business, 77% of IT leaders now view IT as an extension/partner of business units rather than a separate function.
Thus, IT is emerging in a role we’ve never seen it in before — the “central nervous system” of modern business. And with it comes a shift in responsibilities for the CIO toward the role of business leader. To be successful, modern CIOs must abandon their tendencies toward control and adopt an outlook that is more collaborative and customer-centric than ever. It’s not easy — but CIOs are doing it.
The Evolution of IT
In the customer-driven era, IT can no longer function separately from business strategy and execution. But that’s not always how it’s been:
The Old Way
In the old days, IT was seen as a cost center with a myopic mission of keeping the lights on, while being tasked with maintaining status quo infrastructure. But 57% of IT teams now cite legacy infrastructure and platforms as a top challenge in becoming a value-based brokerage.
The New Way
Today, IT is considered the biggest driver of business success, according to 74% of IT leaders and the business teams they partner with. Instead of taking a traditionally reactive role in the business, IT is now at the center of company strategy, playing a key role in helping the business deliver on customer-centric strategies. In fact, 61% of IT leaders say providing a single view of the customer is a high priority over the next 12–18 months.
IT’s shift to a value-based service brokerage is due in large part to customers’ demand for consistent interactions with every part of the business, whether through sales, service, or marketing. Regardless of the number of business units in a company and the disparate functions they represent, customers see only one organization. This drives home the need for IT to consolidate customer data into a single source of truth. In short, the customers you serve are uber-connected — and they have no patience for vendors that don’t play by the same rules.
Forrester’s Sharyn Leaver calls those that integrate technology strategy into a more connected experience “customer-obsessed.” At these firms, traditionally siloed approaches are giving way to cross-functional teams across the business that collectively serve customer journeys and desires. Sixty-seven percent of IT teams even say improving their collaboration with other lines of business is one of their highest priorities, second only to improving security policies and practices.
Today’s IT is like none other we’ve witnessed before. As we approach the midpoint of 2017, we expect to see IT continually take its place at center stage, relying on it to bring innovative ideas and competitive edge to the business.
For more information and recent research findings about the shifting role of IT, check out the second annual “State of IT” report at salesforce.com/stateofit.