In the past five years alone, there’s been a dramatic shift in how organizations view their IT department. “Help desk” and “tech support” were once the go-to terms used to describe the group but no longer fully encompass what business leaders need and want from their IT peers.

As digital technologies become the foundational strategy of almost every line of business (LOB), IT can no longer simply serve as an order-taker. These professionals are in a prime position to step up and become a game-changer for their companies. The real question is whether IT is ready (and willing) to take the next big step toward the future.

Evolving Expectations
gyro recently conducted research to find the answer. Social media listening, qualitative interviews and a quantitative survey of 150 business leaders across a variety of functions revealed the perceptions, expectations and future goals that company leaders have of IT.

It’s evident from the research that LOB leaders yearn for IT to take a more strategic role within the company and help to prepare to handle the future marketplace. A quick look at the evolution of the top term describing IT’s role supports this finding:

5 years ago: Help desk service provider
Today: Technology infrastructure strategist
Future: Business technology strategist

Lines of business feel pressure to keep up with the rapid changes in technology, and they are looking to partner with IT to discover the best solutions to improve their efficiency and effectiveness.

That’s a dramatic shift in responsibility for the IT group, whose primary concerns used to surround the more tactical duties of maintaining infrastructure and troubleshooting — roles welcomed by the traditional technology professional personality.

But as technology evolves, so must the keepers of it. Eduardo Conrado, chief innovation officer for Motorola Solutions, describes these new IT personalities as “mavericks,” those who are willing to step up and take risks and play active roles in collaborating with other departments.

Drew Chapin, chief marketing officer at OnBase by Hyland, described this transformation well:

“CIOs for a long time were viewed as a utility. [There was] no expectation that IT would be into the business processes. Now it’s almost absolutely necessary for IT departments to understand what’s out there, what’s coming and then be able to advise the business and introduce new concepts and be more proactive.”

A Balanced Focus
As consumers gain more power and increasingly direct their own paths to purchase, all departments, including IT, must work together to deliver an integrated, seamless customer experience, as our research found.

Top 10 IT Department Tasks in the Future, According to Finance, Marketing and Operations Leaders

  1. Find new ways to apply technology to improve the customer experience.
  2. Find new ways to apply technology to improve business operations.
  3. Drive business innovation through technology.
  4. Find new ways to apply technology for competitive differentiation.
  5. Manage IT security.
  6. Control IT costs.
  7. Improve internal IT operations.
  8. Integrate information across the organization.
  9. Lead technology change efforts.
  10. Find new ways to apply technology to create value for customers.

Ask IT leaders what they want to accomplish in the future, though, and you are given a different story.

Top 10 IT Department Tasks in the Future, According to IT Leaders

  1. Manage IT security.
  2. Uncover insights through data analytics.
  3. Protect customer privacy.
  4. Improve usability.
  5. Find new ways to apply technology to improve business operations.
  6. Find new ways to apply technology to improve the customer experience.
  7. Drive business innovation through technology.
  8. Integrate information across the organization.
  9. Prevent IT crises.
  10. Find new ways to apply technology for competitive differentiation.

To rectify these disparities and better balance priorities for IT across the organization, the group must embrace its “human side” and change its culture and thinking about the department’s ultimate purpose and focus. It must also improve how it communicates with the organization — a primary area of disconnect and top area for IT improvement, according to the business leaders gyro surveyed.

To reinforce its identity within the organization, IT must not only transform itself, but also humanize itself in order to fulfill the role business leaders now expect of them.

“We have to make sure we get people to focus on the business needs we’re trying to accomplish,” said John Phelan, vice president of information services at OnBase by Hyland. “What are the requirements we’re trying to meet, rather than just what does the screen look like, what are the colors of the buttons, how many clicks do my users need to make? Our employees are our customers, and I expect the same level of service to them that we expect as a company to give to our end users.”

Times have changed. Technology has evolved. Business leaders’ expectations have increased. Now is the time of great opportunity for IT to become the game-changers that company leaders desire them to be, and showcase the value and human relevance that technology brings to the business.

To download “The Humanization of IT” white paper, please click here.