It’s time that line-of-business leaders became interested in their organization’s IT infrastructure and its related capabilities, according to IBM Corp.

Companies where business leaders are communicating with the IT department about their requirements are out-performing others, according to a survey conducted by Big Blue’s Institute for Business Value. The poll of 750 chief technology officers, CIOs, and other senior technology executives across 18 countries was first reported on in July.

That report separated companies into two different groups:

  • Strategic IT connectors. Organizations where line of business leaders are working with the IT department to address challenges related to infrastructure.
  • Siloed IT operators. Where the IT department is not connected to the business.

In the group of strategic IT connectors, 81 per cent saw IT infrastructure as playing an important role in enabling competitive advantage, according to the study. The group was also more likely to be making more revenue and profit compared to the siloed group.

The more profitable segment demonstrated a few key attributes, says Jacqueline Woods, global vice-president for growth solutions at IBM Corp.

“They placed the highest importance on business knowledge, which meant that as they talked to their peers, having that line of business expertise and understanding what impact it would have on the business was critically important,” she says. “They were better on overall metrics and planning. They were better on collaborating with the business from the customer-end perspective.”

Nearly half of the IT leaders in the survey said keeping up with business requirements was their greatest support challenge. Also, 40 per cent believe that non-IT functions will be involved in cloud computing decisions made in the next three years.

Yet despite that understanding, only 30 per cent of IT executives say they are successfully collaborating with the business to provide the support needed today. Many also feel overlooked by the business when it comes to advising on technology selection, with only 34 per cent saying business leaders look to them for expertise.

To shift the conversation about IT, some members of the IT department are going to have to broaden their skill set, Woods says.

“You want someone that is not just in the plumbing of IT,” she says. “You want someone with specific business knowledge.”

Skills and capabilities needed to support IT infrastructure.

While the IT department must reposition itself as a trusted service provider and help identify revenue-making opportunities, Woods says, it’s also up to business leaders to start collaborating. After all, a relationship has to work both ways.

Business leaders must be specific about how and why technology is important to them when communicating with the IT department.

“The needs they come in with have to be very specific around the business challenge they are trying to solve,” she says. “You can’t just say you need a server. It’s why do I need this server with this particular work load and what value do I need to achieve with it?”

The IBM study concludes that effective IT infrastructure goes beyond just good technology. It is also dictated by an organization’s culture and management systems.

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