Once upon a time, the sole purpose of a company’s IT department was to keep servers running, eliminate computer viruses, and deliver desktop support. But while these tasks are still critical in day-to-day business, the role of the IT department and its leaders has grown significantly. And if this evolving role of tech leadership isn’t fulfilled and leveraged within an organization, the company will always be one step behind its competition.

As an IT staffing firm that sources and recruits savvy tech pros, we’re seeing evidence of this shift every day. Simply put, the role of IT in today’s business landscape calls for a much more strategic approach.

Saying Goodbye to the IT Silo

A recent Forbes article claims that the traditional siloed approach to IT departments is history, thanks to trends like virtualization and Unified Computing. Going forward, roles will converge in order to achieve greater efficiencies in workflow process, communication, and collaboration. For example, says Elias Khnaser for Forbes, “no longer will we have a storage admin and a network admin and a systems admin. Rather, we will have a datacenter admin.” This convergence will achieve better time and cost effectiveness, as well as a more customized approach to an organization’s IT requirements.

Additionally, a PWC report advises that as trends like big data and cloud computing reach deeper into each increasingly digitized business unit, tech-related decision-making will frequently take place outside of the traditional IT department. Despite this change, tech leaders should still be called upon for strategic direction, procurement, and implementation.

Finally, in the past, we’ve discussed how consumer tech trends are impacting IT employment demand, and those arguments are very much relevant here. It is clear that as technological innovation continues its path towards a “fourth industrial revolution,” fields that were once relatively unrelated are now converging and building upon each other. As such, IT departments that silo their team members won’t be as capable of adapting to this cross-functional model.

From Service Provider to Business Partner

So if the evolving role of tech leadership can’t depend upon siloed responsibilities, what does it look like instead? Essentially, it’s a shift from service provider to business partner. As a service provider, the tech department is just another line in the budget, a “necessary evil” that strains the bottom line. As a business partner, however, tech leadership can strategically direct the IT department to help drive business growth.

As such, IT leaders must be equipped with strong communication skills and business savvy as well as an innate ability to build trust, share their vision, and provide authoritative direction within the C-suite. They must collaborate with individual business units and address their technical needs with the big picture of the organization’s business drivers in mind.

The IT department of the future will no longer operate on a transactional level; instead, it is an ever-present partner, supporting business goals through innovation and strategic IT investments while establishing strategic technical partnerships within the organization and the industry itself. It is essential for a company’s leaders to understand this paradigm shift and recognize that enterprise technology is not simply a solution, but a catalyst in achieving key business objectives.

Recruiting for the Evolving Role of Tech Leadership

We recently explored some of the biggest challenges in hiring for cloud and DevOps, and the prevailing theme seems to be the shortage of talent. The same holds true here, and it’s a two-part problem. As the role of tech leadership evolves, the search for the right talent becomes increasingly complex: Not only must a candidate possess an array of strong technical skills, they must also have business savvy, be agile and adaptable in light of these changes, and possess strategic vision when it comes to leading this increasingly decentralized IT function.

Furthermore, this challenge is not reserved for c-suite and director level positions. IT leaders should understand that everyone in their department, from front line tech support to application development teams, must be able to see their role for what it is in the big picture. They must have some level of cross-functional skill, as each element of the department continues to expand its reach and build upon one another. Whether or not you believe that the IT talent shortage is fact or fiction, the fact remains that the changing face of IT presents a challenge in the recruitment process.