Nine out of ten executives comfortable with IT staff out in front of clients

Avanade survey of 1,000 executives finds growing evidence of IT's shift from server administrators to business advisory role.

Business leaders have mixed feelings about the roles of their IT staffs. They see corporate technology decisions moving away from IT departments, yet want IT to take a more proactive role in business initiatives.

Photo: HubSpot

These findings, coming from a survey of 1,003 companies released by Avanade, finds a major shift in IT priorities is underway. IT is no longer behind the scenes in the server room, but now front and center of the business. A majority, 83 percent, said they are comfortable with IT staff interacting directly with important clients and partners in a consultancy role. This percentage is highest in the C-suite — 90 percent of C-level executives would put IT staff in front of important clients in this consultancy role. And 66 percent of companies plan to expand the role IT plays as business advisors in the next year.

To make this shift, business leaders want IT to build skills in key areas that will help source technologies that solve business problems for employees, customers, and partners. C-level executives report a need for more skills in cloud services (44 percent) and service and systems integration (43 percent).

At the same time, so-called shadow IT is accelerating. New research shows 37 percent of technology budgets are now controlled outside of IT departments. In fact, 79 percent of C-level executives believe "they can make better and faster decisions without the involvement of IT."  But it's debatable how far these executives would get without IT departments to hold their hands and untangle any messes they make with cloud services. 

Technology budgets and decision making may be migrating away from IT departments, but IT is increasingly taking on new roles in the enterprise. With these shifting budgets and loss of control, the study shows a new “services broker” model for IT taking hold. IT is looked upon to consult with departments across the enterprise to better understand their technology needs and objectives, and source internal or external IT services or partners to meet these demands.

More than one-third (35 percent) of companies’ IT departments already act primarily as services brokers today. Among companies whose IT departments are structured this way, 58 percent report they will expand the role of IT services brokers in the next 12 months. Additionally, 68 percent of companies report their IT department is contributing more to accomplishing business objectives than they did three years ago.

Even with these changes, time spent managing the same old legacy systems continues to distract the agenda for IT staff — 36 percent of IT staff’s time is spent managing and maintaining legacy systems.