When it comes to technology in the workplace, the genie is out of the bottle. Technology, which was once the domain of the CIO and its organization, has gone from supporting business operations to driving business top- and bottom-line. Social media and personal devices, which used to be relegated to life outside the office, are now driving innovations at work. Leaders in all areas of the business are taking a cue from sleek-looking apps and nimble mobile devices and are pursuing leading edge technology solutions to create a new experience for both internal and external customers.

We call this phenomenon IT without boundaries, and it’s creating a real tension in organizations between IT and business leaders. We recently surveyed 1,000+ C-level executives, business unit and IT leaders globally to explore changing perceptions on IT spending. Our IT Without Boundaries research shows how significant this tension is. Thirty-seven percent of technology spending is now happening outside of the CIO organization. And 79 percent of C-level executives believe they can make better and faster decisions without the involvement of IT. It looks as if the power of technology investment is being pulled from CIOs by the rest of the business.

We see several factors that are contributing to the pull. Business users have unprecedented expectations of IT. Cloud services can make traditional IT look expensive and slow. Much of the daily responsibility of IT — maintaining the core systems that keep an organization humming — is unseen and underappreciated by the rest of the business (until a server goes down or personal information is breached).

While CIOs are being asked to respond to new business requirements and maintain current enterprise systems, they are also still expected to reduce costs, deliver faster and protect company data. In fact, CIOs are being asked to operate at two speeds — moving fast enough to bring new innovative solutions to the business to keep up with consumer demand and business leaders’ expectations, while also maintaining the systems that form an enterprise’s backbone. Our research showed that 36 percent of IT staff’s time today is still spent managing and maintaining legacy systems; this will remain consistent in 2014.

CIOs are accustomed to dealing with the disruptive nature of technology, steering enterprises through countless seismic shifts. That is why savvy tech leaders are already carving out their niche in this changing world, finding new opportunities arising from IT without boundaries.

IT departments are starting to position themselves as services brokers, partnering across the organization to understand the needs and objectives of the business and then sourcing technology and business services from inside or outside the company to address those challenges. Today, 35 percent of our survey participants have IT serving in this capacity, and among those organizations, 58 percent plan to increase that role over the coming year. As different areas of the business want to bring in technology to support their own agendas, no one is better than the CIO’s team to help introduce and integrate that technology into the business. Beyond knowledge of their own organization’s infrastructure, CIOs are also part of the larger technology ecosystem, and have a head start on identifying the right partners to help implement and sustain new solutions.

Just as the IT boundaries are blurring within an organization, so is the role of the CIO and IT. Companies are ready for CIOs to step into that role of a trusted advisor — both internally and externally. Our research shows that 83 percent of executives are comfortable with IT staff interacting directly with important clients and partners in a consultancy role. And, as IT teams build up either skills as services brokers, 68 percent of C-level executives and 63 percent of business unit leaders expect the IT department to have more influence on technology decisions in the future. Just as in any good game of tug-o-war, each action produces an opposite reaction. In this case, the reaction is from the IT team, which is quickly expanding its focus from servers to services.

Some more good news about today’s CIOs and their teams: Avanade sees one of the pivotal strategies for succeeding in an environment of IT without boundaries as creating a people-centric IT focus. In other words, providing compelling user experiences, the ability to access information on a variety of devices that the user chooses and productivity tools like collaboration and visual presence — and that’s just a start. We call this the Digital Workplace and it is underpinned by the idea that in order to give customers a consistent digital experience, you need to first start by making sure that you offer a strong digital experience to your employees (who will in turn interact with your customers). IT teams are already ahead of this curve, with 71 percent of C-suite executives surveyed affirming an “employee-centric culture” within their organizations.

Our most recent research provides validation of trends we’ve seen for several years now in our work with companies and government agencies to help them get the most out of their technology investments. The challenge of two-speed IT is real and is not going away, as the pace of innovation and disruptive technology continues to increase. The good news is that CIOs and IT departments that are fully engaged both internally and in the larger technology ecosystem are poised to benefit from this latest disruption.

For many CIOs, IT without boundaries is a big opportunity to move from supporting an organization’s strategic agenda to helping drive it. Are you ready to take advantage of this change?

Source: WIRED