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Today an increasing number of CIOs are reporting directly to the CEO and being asked to contribute to long-term strategic thinking and planning. Long gone are the days when IT was responsible for managing only IT costs and security. Now responsibilities include aligning IT/business goals, delivering on competitive differentiation and developing new go-to-market strategies/technologies.

So how does IT management use its unique position to spur business innovation?

1. Drive technology investments that help better align IT and business goals.

According to a recent online poll of 500 IT executives, the following represents areas where IT expects to have the most impact over the next year:

  1. Customer relationships (acquiring, retaining)
  2. New-market offerings
  3. End-user workforce productivity
  4. Company operating costs

The number one business goal, regardless of industry or business unit, continues to be sales. In the past, understanding the customer was a burden typically placed on the sales and marketing teams. But that statement is no longer true.

So what conclusion can we draw?

Enterprise collaboration is vital. In a world where cross-functional team discussion about business processes and customer needs are key, companies with a collaboration platform and strategy in place will have a definite competitive advantage. The 21-century CIO is expected to not only support employees but also sales, customer service and other inter-departmental teams that focus on the customer.

2. Lead change efforts to create a corporate culture of collaboration.

In corporations where information silos no longer exist, collaboration is a new way of life. Here's an example: when a leading software company released a beta of its collaboration platform to employees, one immediate, recognizable difference was improved workflow. Instead of sending one-to-one emails en masse, messages and files were being shared and stored in the new online repository, accessible by all team members. Discussions and decisions were happening much faster, and workplace productivity improved by 30 percent within the first 60 days.


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