The challenges of the strategic IT function

In most industries the IT function is looking to be more of a strategic partner to the business rather than simply a cost center and service provider. CIOs are looking across the business to identify ways they can help the business compete and grow revenue. Many have developed a business liaison function that they place within the business units; a few are even setting performance metrics for their strategic role in the organization. These efforts have met with mixed results given the relatively high hill to climb.

As surprising as it might sound for both sides, in B2B markets we see parallels between the challenges IT and the marketing team face in terms of being viewed as strategic. As with the IT function, many of marketing’s most visible activities are tactical in nature – creating collateral, trade show booths, logos, etc. Often the other business functions view these as the primary role of the marketing department and as with IT infrastructure there is internal pressure to do these things cheaper and faster. Often the marketing teams strategic activities such as brand building, positioning, etc. are undervalued and do not have the support of the entire organization.

Fortunately for the IT function, there are two on-going trends in IT’s favor as it positions itself as a strategic contributor to the business. As the importance of analytics and business intelligence grows so does the importance of the IT department. IT is in an excellent position to see the disparate data across the organization and provide guidance and strategies for leveraging that data and transforming it into a format that can be used by managers. On a related front, the growth of IT consumerization and mobile solutions has pushed IT to the forefront of many strategic decisions as companies figure out the best way to get data and applications into the heads of the people who need it the most.