Technology today is moving at a faster rate than we’ve ever seen, and it’s only going to accelerate. To be successful in an ever-changing industry, IT professionals need to think about how they are adding value across the organization.

Think of the work the IT department does as an iceberg. The part that is visible above the water is where IT is driving new innovation and showcasing its expertise. But, there is often a greater mass that is invisible below the water line – the less-sexy work of maintaining legacy systems and applications.

This is the two-speed IT challenge that most IT departments face today – how do you focus on driving forward-looking innovation while also keeping the lights on? As CIOs, we need to find a way to invert the iceberg so that our IT department is spending more time on the valuable work that is visible above the water. For me, I see a few key things that are helping us make that shift and deliver more innovation across the organization:

  • Leverage cloud computing strategically. The adoption of cloud-based services frees up the IT organization from operational tasks and offloads much of that legacy maintenance. Cloud computing also enables IT to more easily scale at speed – enabling staff to redirect time once spent on software upgrades and patching servers to more strategic efforts to add greater value and innovation on top of these platforms.
  • Turn IT into a money maker. As enterprises transform into digital businesses, IT professionals are increasingly playing the role of business advisor to both internal and external stakeholders. We now have more opportunity to develop new revenue streams, grow the customer base and add new channels. In fact, according to our recent research, 83 percent of IT leaders would be comfortable with IT staff interacting directly with important clients and partners in a consultancy role.
  • Embrace shadow IT. Tech-savvy employees are letting organizations know which apps and services they want to use in their jobs, particularly when it comes to mobility. Progressive IT departments see this phenomenon as a path to innovation and partner with their stakeholders to walk the fine line of enablement and protection. The more that we can tap into the creative energy of our people, both within and outside of IT,  the more it enables us to focus on big-picture thinking that results in true value for the entire organization.
  • Create advocates who will tell the IT story. Many organizations today are experiencing a tech knowledge gap in the C-suite that is stifling IT’s efforts to create advocates in other lines of business. By partnering with the C-suite and educating them on compelling stories of IT innovation, IT departments can create evangelists within the company that starts with senior leadership.

There are no easy answers to the challenges that two-speed IT presents, but it is a challenge that can’t be ignored. I see it as an opportunity to refocus IT efforts on highly visible, value creating work above the water line, without sacrificing the ability to provide stable and reliable services. By focusing on areas like cloud and creating IT advocates, CIOs can begin to shift the momentum from maintenance to innovation. What other ways are organizations tackling this challenge?