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What is the role of IT within modern enterprises? That's a question a new study conducted by the Economist Business Unit and sponsored by Juniper Networks aims to answer.
"Most people tend to think of IT as back office, back room guys, who are useful for reducing costs," Juniper Network CIO, Bask Iyer told Datamation.
The study found that 72 percent of respondents reported that IT is relied upon to increase operational efficiency. That said, only 20 percent of the survey's 474 global respondents noted that IT is really prepared to actually contribute to business growth.
The disconnect with IT and organizational growth has a lot to do with a lack of collaboration between business units and IT. The survey found that only five percent of IT organizations are helping their enterprises in developing competitive strategy while only nine percent help in identifying new market opportunities.
"IT is falling short of expectations," Iyer said.
As to why there is a gap, Iyer noted that IT still tends to operate in its own organizational silo, separate from the rest of the business.
"IT hasn't really focused on learning the business and getting to the front office," Iyer commented.
What Juniper's research seems to indicate is that the most financially successful companies are doing things that others aren't doing. Notably, successful companies are working together with their IT organizations to develop new products and IT is used to help support business growth.
Bridging the Gap
To help bridge the gap and improve IT's position within companies, Iyer has several suggestions.
"CEOs and company Boards should expect that information technology will play a strategic role in the business," Iyer said. "If you don't use IT, you are going into battle with one arm tied behind your back."
Furthermore, in Iyer's view the CIO and the IT teams should have a seat at the leadership table of the company. Fundamentally IT needs to be viewed as more than just a cost center. There needs to be a mindset that IT is a critical part of innovation and growth.
It's not just about the business including IT, but also about IT leadership that can understand how to effectively contribute to growth.
"Structurally, information technology is such a critical part of growth that businesses need to have an IT leader who is very effective," Iyer said.