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Blog · 25 Jan 2018

IT - from cost centre to centre of innovation

Traditionally, the IT department has been an 'order taker' entity which manages application SLAs and complex IT policies. It's always filled a vital role, but hasn't truly helped to grow a business.

Head of compute, Europe

The reputation of IT

When you think of IT, what comes to mind? For many, IT refers to a support function — the people who fix your PC when it decides to stop working. Although the IT department obviously has a far more in-depth role than this, there is a nugget of truth in the thought.

It’s fair to say that IT’s role has traditionally been that of a cost centre. It’s the heart of almost every organisation in the digital age — it’s necessary for survival, but at the same time it doesn’t add much to the growth or innovation of a business.

As I said, that’s the traditional role of IT. And I use that phrase for a reason — because I don’t think it’s the case any longer.

The role of IT is changing to become a business enabler, an agent of innovation, growth and profit, rather than just a support function. And this change comes just in time, when you consider that IT is becoming increasingly commoditised due to the prevalence of shadow IT.

The goal for IT

To achieve this transformation, IT needs to do three things:

  1. Have a role in creating business strategy, and better understand the risks and opportunities faced by the company.
  2. Become more agile and able to respond effectively to a shifting digital landscape.
  3. Change the company’s perception of IT — so that budget holders and decision makers see it as a partner in transformation rather than simply a support function.  

To achieve these three goals, IT needs to first demonstrate its capabilities. And to do this, it needs to be proactive. But what does this mean?

Well, here are a few examples of what IT can do to show off its credentials as an agent of business growth and digital transformation.

  • Embrace shadow IT across the organisation, by providing an IT ‘umbrella’ under each instance. Organisations should develop a user-centric approach to IT services, and ease the adoption of new services. This could be done, for example, with single sign-on (SSO). Services should be delivered in a timely and easy fashion, and provide the same user experience as can be found online.
  • Make key functions, such as email, more efficient by moving them to the cloud. Not only can this make the functions more effective, it also frees up more time for IT to work on adding true value to the business.
  • Talk to employees to get a better understanding of how they work, what they need and how they can increase productivity. Then decide whether new, digital, ways of working (e.g. unified communications) can improve the situation.
  • Work towards unlocking open innovation throughout the company. This means offering digital platforms that allow anyone in the business to develop innovation of their own.

What binds all these ideas together, is that they add value to the business. It’s not just more examples of IT keeping things running — it’s IT leading the way. And that’s exactly what companies need in this competitive, digital age.

Businesses now fully recognise the role of IT in their strategic developments and expect the IT department to be a centre of innovation, generating competitive advantage and new business opportunities.

To find out more about digital transformation, and how the cloud can enable it, make sure you take a look at our white paper, ‘Creating the right IT platform for digital transformation’, today.