Research commissioned by Kcom reveals that IT departments are playing an increasingly strategic role in business, despite the disruption of the global economic crisis.

It seems that over one third (35 per cent) of companies identify their IT department as forward-thinking, strategic and innovative. As a result, IT is often responsible for business-shaping tasks such as enhancing customer interactions and developing operational models to drive recovery from the downturn.

This trend has allegedly altered the way that IT departments are judged within the company. 34 per cent of respondents report that their key performance indicators are measured by the successful alignment of the IT department with the business objectives. Interestingly, a further 27 per cent of businesses now judge their IT departments on their actual delivery of business outcomes.

Managed services are playing a key role in allowing IT departments to have more strategic input to their business, with 61 per cent of respondents using third party providers to manage core IT requirements. The findings indicate a seismic shift in the perception of the role of the IT department in business, with only 22 per cent of respondents now treating their IT department as simply a ‘support function which resolves faults’.

IT’s top priority within the business is to increase productivity, with an impressive 48 per cent of senior IT professionals interviewed citing this as a key objective. They suggest also that IT departments have gained an increasingly empowered role within the company. 41 per cent of companies are relying on IT’s contribution to fundamental business development activities such as direct customer contact and digital strategy.

However, IT departments have been unable to escape the effect of the big squeeze with 83 per cent of respondents having to undertake cost cutting exercises. A total of 41 per cent of respondents have had to make up to 10 per cent of OpEx budget reductions as a consequence of the global recession.

Paul Renucci, Group Executive Director for Kcom, commented: “It’s great to see that IT has earned its rightful place on the Board agenda. Businesses have woken up to the fact that when IT is empowered to do so, it can deliver true strategic – and bottom line – value. I truly believe that IT departments can, and will play a tremendous part in helping organisations battle their way out of recession with new found confidence.”

NOTE: The survey reflects the views of 100 senior IT professionals in UK companies with at least 500 employees.