Who’s really in control of IT? The answer may surprise you

It’s become almost cliché to say at this point, but IT’s role in the company is undergoing a serious shift – and maybe not for the better.  

A recent survey by Avanade [PDF] shows that while IT might be ready for a transformation, other decision-makers remain a little skeptical.

On the one hand, there are some positive indications. Shedding the stereotype of IT being the guys who keep things running behind the scenes, managers reported feeling confident about their departments getting out there. More than eight in 10 respondents said they were comfortable with IT staff interacting directly with important customers and partners as consultants.

And 66% of companies would like IT to take a bigger role in advising in the next two years. The knock against IT has long been that it doesn’t want to have a decision-making role, but this shows otherwise.

An uphill climb

Unfortunately, this is where we run into the bad news. Although they’d clearly like to see roles change, IT is still in many ways stuck in the same old position.

Consider that the survey also found:

  • 68% of IT decision-makers felt their department is responsible for technology use, spending and managing security risks, but lacks the control to manage this effectively
  • 36% of IT’s staff time is spent managing legacy systems (and 66% of executives say that won’t change any time soon), and
  • 37% of IT’s budget is handled outside of the IT department.

And other managers aren’t too keen on IT taking on a bigger role in these areas. In fact, 79% of C-level executives thought they could make technology decisions better and faster than IT staff could.

Fighting for change

Convincing higher-ups that your department should be able to manage its own budget doesn’t seem like something you should have to do. But the truth is, if IT wants to have a larger role in the day-to-day operations of the business, it’s going to need to speak up.

Try to highlight:

  • IT’s role as an adviser. Even if the technology can be easy to use on its face, IT will still need to make sure it works with existing systems and can be run securely.
  • Freeing up legacy systems is to everyone’s advantage. If IT can have a larger role in determining the direction of operations, it will benefit everyone. The time saved maintaining existing infrastructure and legacy systems will free up resources for technology improvements.
  • IT as a cost-saver. No one likes to be taken for a ride, but the hardest group to fool with overpriced services will be the IT departments who are going to be working with them. Vendors will promise other departments the moon. With fellow IT pros, they’re going to be more realistic about costs and expectations.

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