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'Perceptions hold back IT's shift to strategic role'

This year might prove to be the ‘tipping point’ at which IT becomes fully integral to business strategy.

The shift will only happen, however, if the profession can ‘overcome its perception as a non-critical implementer’, according to a report from IT recruitment firm Modis International.

‘State of the IT Market Report 2011’ suggests that while the majority of IT leaders are under pressure to develop transformational changes for their businesses, traditional views of the IT function are ‘holding back the pace of change’. Fifty-three per cent of respondents reckon that IT is becoming ‘ever more involved in managing major change’ within their organisations, including devising new supply chain solutions, and developing CRM and sales activity to deliver commercial advantages. Further evidence of the growing strategic role comes as 40 per cent of IT leaders report that forecasting customer behaviour and market changes is also now part of their role, twice the proportion compared to a year ago.

Seven per cent of those polled believe that their organisations regard IT as ‘performing an invaluable service’, underlining the scale of the communications challenge facing senior practitioners.  At the same time, although IT leaders believe they are taking on greater responsibilities, many do not feel this change is being ‘recognised elsewhere in the organisation’.

The pace of change in IT’s role is also being hindered by perceptions of what it can and should do, with 35 per cent of respondents saying their companies ‘still see IT as implementers of pre-determined decisions’, rather than having a role in determining decisions.

“Perhaps the most significant change for the IT industry in 2010 was its evolution from commodity to strategic asset and this trend will gather momentum in 2011. The need to be more commercially-minded and customer-focused is driving this shift.

“IT still needs to deliver its traditional functions but at the same time company boards are asking ever more of their IT leaders, placing more responsibility on their shoulders for overall business development.

“This trend is in many ways a positive step for the industry but it is by no means universal, with many IT teams still burdened by a belief that they are just there to carry out transactional activity,” says Modis International managing director Jim Albert. “The financial services sector is at the forefront of the progressive trend, but traditional perceptions still persist in many sectors.”

The ‘State of the IT Market Report 2011’ surveyed 110 senior IT decision makers (predominantly IT directors and heads of IT) from UK businesses of varying sizes, and from a range of sectors.

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