The past two years of rapid digital transformation have reshaped the role of IT teams. More enterprises and workloads have shifted to the cloud, digital user experience (UX) has become more important than ever, and once-siloed IT professionals are now a central part of business decision-making. But understandably, many organizations are struggling to keep pace with these changes.
The organizations coming out on top are the ones retooling IT operations to adapt to shifts in today’s market. These companies – we’ll call them the leaders of today’s IT world – are steps ahead of those that haven’t narrowed their focus on what really matters.
Innovation and growth – rather than just staying afloat – must be a top priority to maintain a competitive advantage in 2022 and beyond.
What separates leading IT organizations from followers?
Recent industry research explores several main focus areas that leading IT organizations are prioritizing over the next few years, from new business development to security. The key differentiator between leading IT organizations and “followers” (categorized as organizations that didn’t rate themselves a 5/5 on questions regarding innovation, goal achievement, and cross-company collaboration) is how well a company’s leadership responds to changes in market trends and conditions.
Consider these five themes developed from the practices of today’s top IT organizations and assess whether your priorities are moving in the right direction.
1. IT shifts from tactical to strategic
As a result of the global shift in priorities over the past two years, tech strategy is now relevant to nearly every conversation from business goals to tapping into new revenue streams. Executives at leading IT organizations ranked “identifying new business opportunities” as the number-one priority for their IT organization. Meanwhile, respondents at lagging organizations cited “technology implementation” as their top focus. Leading organizations are going beyond the traditional tactical responsibilities of IT teams and thinking critically about innovation and new business opportunities.
2. User experience is front and center
UX and customer experience (CX) make a significant difference in providing a superior product or service. And leading IT organizations know they need to understand what customers want before they begin executing. That’s why top companies invest in UX and incorporate user research early in the software development cycle.
Ask yourself, your employees, and other teams across the business how the software can be improved. Consider the user journey every step of the way to set your product or service apart.
3. IT creates revenue-driving opportunities
Let’s set aside the idea that IT is a cost center, and instead view it as a revenue maker – because that’s what top IT organizations are doing. Leading IT leaders ranked “being seen as a revenue generator” as their top priority, while followers ranked it third. Innovative IT organizations work to reduce IT costs by maximizing data and optimizing cloud use, which allows them to allocate resources and energy to explore innovation with a cross-functional team. More often than not, this results in revenue growth.
While some companies’ IT teams still operate in silos, forward-thinking IT organizations are working in tandem with other departments to identify new business and revenue growth opportunities. Consider whether your IT goals are tied to business value delivery and find concrete ways to measure IT success. For example, metrics like mean time to recovery or future lead time can demonstrate how well you’re contributing to organizational goals.
4. Security is a company-wide issue
A company’s most important asset is the data that flows from its software. Instead of relying solely on IT and security teams to protect networks, systems, and data, every employee should be versed in best security practices and equipped with the right tools (like multi-factor authentication).
While 58 percent of all IT leaders ranked cybersecurity as the top skill required to execute the technology strategies, they ranked cybersecurity as only their fourth top priority for resource allocation. This serves as an important reminder to align your resource allocation with business and IT goals. You need enough security budget to hold company-wide training and invest in the right security tools and software.
5. Recruitment and retention are top of mind
The tech talent gap is leaving many organizations struggling to recruit and retain top employees. Nearly 70 percent of IT leaders say they are “extremely effective” at attracting top-tier talent, versus only 50 percent of followers. Leading organizations have found success in recruiting top talent by offering competitive salaries, robust benefits, and transparency around compensation and the qualities they’re looking for in a candidate.
Encourage employees and new candidates to bring other offers to the table and ask them what they think their talent is worth. If you’re unable to offer a higher salary to a candidate, focus on other areas your company excels in, like career growth opportunities or chances to work on unique projects.
As you consider the five focus areas of leading organizations, evaluate how your organization stacks up. Are your IT priorities aligned with company-wide goals? Is every member of your organization versed in best security practices?
These are the types of questions you should be asking on a continual basis to avoid ending up as an IT laggard. The role of IT is changing, and the companies coming out on top are the ones embracing this new trajectory.
[ Discover how priorities are changing. Get the Harvard Business Review Analytic Services report: Maintaining momentum on digital transformation. ]
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