If you were to venture a guess, what percentage of their time would you estimate IT departments spend on innovation?
Unfortunately for today's businesses, just a quarter of that time would be too high a response. IT departments "spend 80% of the time just keeping the light on and 20% of the time coming up with new ideas," said Vivek Bhaskaran, co-founder of Ideascale and founder and CEO of Survey Analytics. "Most IT organizations are just trying to keep their heads above water."
Ideally, according to Bhaskaran, IT divisions should spend half their time focusing on day-to-day problems and the other half on experimenting with new ideas. Such a strategy would help them become better business partners and improve collaboration with other sectors of the organization.
There appears to be a disconnect between how IT is viewed by those within the department and how IT is viewed by those outside it. Bhaskaran cited a recent study in which corporate CIOs were asked whether IT had a strong partnership with their business division. Though 70% of CIOs claimed that the relationship was strong, only 30% of business owners agreed.
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"It's a perception gap," Bhaskaran said. IT organizations are perceived as gatekeepers because they have the power to approve or deny the requests of those in the business. Because tech employees don't often share their progress, business employees become frustrated, because they don't understand how they spend their time.
There are plenty of ways that IT can change their reputation and make time for new ventures, as Bhaskaran will discuss in his Interop New York session, "IT Innovation Crisis: Getting to the Culture of Yes," which will take place on Friday, Oct. 3, from 10:15 to 11:15 a.m. EDT. "It's not really about changing the way you work, but changing the way you talk about your work."
Aside from their assistance with technical problems, IT organizations have little interaction with the rest of the business. By communicating successes through simple tactics such as weekly emails, they can increase their transparency and improve working relationships with business colleagues.
Bhaskaran provided an example of an IT team that sends weekly messages quizzing other employees with questions such as "Guess how many spam emails were filtered this week?" Small efforts such as these are both fun and effective in sharing progress.
In terms of improving innovation, however, Bhaskaran recommends face-to-face collaboration between the IT and business departments. IT teams need to sit down with management and explain that innovation is the future of the company. If they can't make that sell to executives, they won't be able to explain it to anyone.
Kelly Sheridan is Associate Editor at Dark Reading. She started her career in business tech journalism at Insurance & Technology and most recently reported for InformationWeek, where she covered Microsoft and business IT. Sheridan earned her BA at Villanova University. View Full Bio