Technology leaders’ influence in their businesses grows beyond expectations

Starting with the crisis mode of spring 2020, and into the continuing disruptions of 2021, businesses leaned heavily on their IT leaders and staffs to stay in business, and hopefully, see growth. And IT rose to the occasion in a spectacular way. As a result, IT leaders became more intimately involved in the running of their businesses, well beyond the traditional roles of IT.

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Photo: Joe McKendrick

That’s the word from a recent survey of 1,000 IT managers and executives, released by Snow Software. IT leaders weathered the storm in 2021, securing their seat at the executives’ table for the coming year. Eighty-nine percent of IT leaders claimed that IT roles were undervalued pre-Covid — but are now viewed as essential – with 90% claiming they have become trusted advisors to the business.

In addition, 94% of IT managers consider innovation as top priority for their organization, though 71% say IT spends too much time reacting to problems instead of innovating. Top priorities for IT leaders next year are adopting new technology to improve day-to-day operations (30%), reducing IT costs (28%) and improving customer service and satisfaction (28%).

In the wake of the Covid crisis, IT leaders have gained more influence with corner-office executives and board members. A growing number of IT leaders are now seen as business partners, Ninety percent say they are a “trusted advisor” to the business instead of a one-stop shop for technology. In fact 83% of IT leaders consider themselves more of a business leader. “IT leaders have changed how they perceive themselves and the organization also recognizes it,” the survey’s authors state. With this heightened leadership role, IT has been handed increased responsibility and 92% have more financial accountability for their investments.

While 94% of leaders said their organization has become more innovative when it comes to IT and technology resources, they also say they are challenged to deliver innovation and spend too much time reacting to problems (71%).

The dual IT initiatives of driving digital transformation at an accelerated pace while managing an expanding technology estate to healthy ROI can seem daunting at times, the survey authors note. At least 93% of executives say the pace of digital transformation dramatically increased at their organization in 2021. During that time, IT leaders’ focus shifted from operational continuity to leading growth initiatives, such as improving customer experience.

IT priorities over the coming year are challenging, but leaders are optimistic, the survey also shows. Top priorities for IT leaders next year include adopting new technology to improve day-to-day operations (30%), reducing IT costs (28%) and improving customer service and satisfaction (28%). “These areas of focus can often conflict, or at least compete, with one another which, so often, is an all-too-familiar pain felt by IT leaders,” the researchers observe. “To balance these priorities moving forward, CIOs need a more advanced approach for managing their technology environment. Nearly all respondents say they are in the process of adopting the cloud in some form — and 61% increased their use of cloud services over the last year.

“Armed with plenty of newfound experiences and reshaped perspective, 2022 will be the year for IT to take all that has been learned, set new baselines and drive toward new levels of growth,” the survey’s authors state. “It’s an opportunity to fortify strategy and execute on tactics that offer direct pathways to accelerated ROI.”

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