The ZDNet Great Debate Series explored the proposition: IT Department: Cost Center or Profit Center?. Discussing the IT industry and how it can adapt and prove to be a contributor to a company's profit as opposed to just the cost of doing business.
The debaters, Juston James of TechRepublic and Dana Gardner of ZDNet, gave some great insights in to the problems facing IT departments. James taking the cost side explained that while it could be possible, many in the IT industry are not adopting a profit prespective which could find them struggling in this era of outsourcing.
The problem, as James points out, is "most IT departments consistently fail to deliver value." The days of setting up servers, intranet and company records databases are gone and there is a need for IT employees to stay in front of new technology. If the department is to bring profit to the company it needs to be aware of what is hot and how the new tech can be incorporated in to the company's approach.
My suggestion has always been to have IT listen to what the marketing and sales teams are asking for and have them forward any new tech these people come across as they interact with others in their industry. A good example is the installation of VOIP system for the company, early adopters saved their companies hundreds of thousands of dollars. Similarly integrating CMS with SEO abilities or developing platforms to promote affiliate marketing can be a huge source of profits.
Gardner points out that "IT must pick its first battles carefully... Or find a problem that impacts those tasked with business development and fix it or offer suggestions." In otherwords, move towards a collaborative effort. I have worked in situations where the IT department was an island on to itself and the introduction of new tech met a wall of denial. Marketers and sales teams need to explain the upside of such action. And "IT needs to proactively court those that are building the new business winners," Gardner added.
As a marketer I always try to bring the IT people in to the perks of meeting people at these new startups and sharing the swag from places like Google and others. Arranging intros to the engineering guys from Google won me a lot of points with IT.
The days of isolation for the IT guys is over and the companies that are having the major successes are those that are forward looking and will to explore new things.
The full debate is worth a read.