"Four in 10 line of business respondents in a recent CompTIA survey said that their department works jointly with IT to determine which hardware, software, services, and other tech solutions they will deploy," she says. "Just 19 percent said IT handles all such decisions, with even fewer -- 14 percent -- saying that their individual business unit pulls all the strings."
Perhaps more interesting is evidence of increased fluidity in this area, as April cites a quarter of respondents report that tech purchase processes "can present in a combination of ways: IT only, business-unit only, or collaboration between both groups. That said, all signs indicate that the role non-IT business units will play in both strategic and tactical decision-making for technology will only increase as businesses march toward the cloud and all things digital."
Box CIO Paul Chapman says he's seeing spending that's more focused on business function than department. "Non-discretionary and non-directly IT accountable costs are still managed centrally by IT, so such a separation is not always [the case]. If the service requires interconnecting with other parts of the business' systems reference architecture and needs to be tested in an end-to-end, integrated way, IT is then needed to support the delivery. SaaS provides the freedom from infrastructure and a majority of operational overhead, but doesn't free IT from the rest of the services that are needed to implement and evolve a complex end-to-end business architecture."
There's nothing particularly cutting edge about the need for soft skills and efficient collaboration between departments. But there is a way to apply technology concepts across the business for better communication.
Julia Davis, senior vice president and CIO at Aflac, says the insurance firm's internal customer satisfaction surveys jumped 40 percent by introducing agile practices between departments.
"By integrating the business into our agile teams, we've increased collaboration and shifted IT to a more consultative role as opposed to being an order-taker," she says. "Collaboration with other departments has been critical to our success. The main driver of this is our move to a more agile framework."
Expect more IT departments to incorporate agile practices and methodologies not only in their own work but in partnerships across the business.
Booz Allen Hamilton vice president Angela Zutavern is the co-author of The Mathematical Corporation: Where Machine Intelligence and Human Ingenuity Achieve the Impossible. In the book, she and her co-author Josh Sullivan argue that a partnership between machine intelligence and human intellect will form the business model of the future. But for this model to work, flexibility is key.
"The biggest breakthroughs," says Zutavern, "come from combining business knowledge, technical expertise, and soft skills. The most important traits for succeeding in business technology in the future are flexibility in overcoming setbacks and willingness to abandon an idea that's not working to experiment with something new."
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