Businesses worldwide primarily rely on IT departments to increase efficiency of their operations, but IT is largely falling short of expectations to drive business growth in new areas, according to a survey of 474 IT and business executives in Germany, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States sponsored by Juniper Networks and conducted by the Economist Intelligence Unit.
While most IT departments are not yet widely seen driving business growth, the companies surveyed indicated the role of IT will begin shifting from tools of efficiency to engines of growth. Sixty percent of respondents report IT will be very closely or somewhat closely involved in helping develop products or services for the company over the next three years.
Interestingly, the highest-performing companies—those that reported their financial performance is stronger than their industry peers—identified a different role for IT in key areas of their business: A fifth of the high-performing companies said technology played a very strong role in their organization's financial performance, while 11 percent said the IT function can support business growth by identifying market opportunities.
"We must embrace disruptive technologies such as cloud and mobile that are propelling business growth to create an opportunity for IT to step out of a support function into a more strategic role," Juniper Networks Senior Vice President and CIO Bask Iyer said in a statement. "By creating new products and services and identifying new market opportunities, IT can truly transform and technologically enable the business."
Survey respondents also predicted the top technology investments over the next three years would be business information analysis (33 percent), followed by business process management (31 percent), cloud computing and virtualization (29 percent), and mobile devices (26 percent).
The top technology trends influencing the competitiveness of respondents' organizations over the next three years included collaboration and information-sharing through networks (31 percent), the widespread availability of mobile devices (31 percent), and the ubiquitous nature of connected devices and integrated systems (27 percent).
When asked about the IT functions' main strengths, the top response (42 percent) was the efficient execution of general business processes. However, just 20 percent of respondents report that IT is only somewhat prepared or very unprepared to contribute to improved business growth.
"Businesses still view the IT function in the traditional role of improving process efficiency," Rozina Ali, Economist Intelligence Unit deputy editor said in a statement. "However, to really take advantage of an increasingly digitized world, companies need to recognize the potential value of IT as a collaborative partner in identifying new opportunities."
The report found that few business respondents successfully collaborate with IT on strategic business imperatives, such as identifying new market opportunities (9 percent), identifying new innovations (6 percent) or developing a competitive strategy (5 percent).