A full 52 percent of 474 corporate executives surveyed by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) said they rely on IT departments to increase the efficiency of their operations, yet few see IT as an engine for new products and services.
One in five respondents said IT is only somewhat prepared or very unprepared to contribute to business growth, according to the survey of corporate executives in the United States, U.K., Japan and Germany conducted by the EIU on behalf of Juniper Networks (NYSE: JNPR).
Only a fraction of respondents said their company collaborates with IT in identifying new market opportunities and new innovations or developing a competitive strategy.
"Businesses still view the IT function in the traditional role of improving process efficiency. 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," commented Rozina Ali, EIU deputy editor.
This situation is indeed expected to change. A full 62 percent of respondents said IT will be very or somewhat closely involved in developing new products and services over the next three years.
The driver behind this change in attitude is rapid changes in technology. According to one-third of respondents, business information analysis is expected to be a top technology investment over the next three years, followed by business process management at 31 percent of respondents, cloud computing/virtualization at 29 percent and mobile devices at 26 percent.
Respondents said the top technology trends influencing the competitiveness of their company over the next three years include collaboration and information sharing through networks, availability of mobile devices and the ubiquitous nature of connected devices and integrated systems.
"In most cases, tasks to make an organization more efficient have filled the dance card of entire IT departments. This focus on operational efficiency has slowed IT's evolution to a more strategic business partner," wrote Bask Iyer, chief information officer of Juniper Networks, in a blog.
"However, there is hope. The findings from our joint research with the Economist Intelligence Unit show IT is headed into a more strategic role over the next three years, including partnering with business to develop new products and services as well as identify new market opportunities," Iyer concluded.