The IT Paradox: Balancing support and innovation

Is it time for the IT function to renew its core purpose?


The purpose of the IT department has been undergoing a lot of change. Various factors have driven this evolution, from the rise of digital transformation to the Covid-19 pandemic which has forced organisations to accelerate transformation plans.

IT teams are being pulled in two directions, tasked with both keeping the business running responsively and proactively driving innovation to push the business forward. This paradoxical struggle has created a tension within IT teams and confusion around their purpose.
The Covid-19 pandemic has further exacerbated this issue, meaning the one team that businesses rely on the most is in a state of ongoing incertitude around its purpose while operating under even greater pressure. So how are IT teams faring?

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“IT is now regarded as the driver of innovation but still maintains its initial purpose of keeping the business running day-to-day. This is problematic to the success of innovation projects and the ongoing functional role of IT.”

Simon Michie
Chief Technology Officer, Pulsant

Why this research matters

We surveyed 200 IT decision-makers and 200 business leaders from mid-size businesses to understand:

IT’s identity problem

Is it time for the IT function to renew its core purpose?

People and processes

How the wellbeing of both the business and its IT people are being impacted by the IT paradox.

The way forward

How to bring both functions together to support innovation imperatives.

Summary of Key Findings

The role and influence of IT is recognised within the business with the majority (87%) of IT decision-makers say IT is involved in setting the business strategy for the year ahead and almost all (93%) saying their organisation has a representative from the IT team on the board/leadership team.

IT is seen as the drive of innovation and investment in the department is significant. Organisations are investing a quarter (25%) of their budget in IT while nearly half (45%) of IT decision-makers say their organisation sees IT as an enabler of innovation. More than half (54%) of business leaders agree.

But it’s not all positive.

Expectations are high and IT is being pulled in multiple directions with key implications including:

  • 77% of IT decision-makers say expectations of IT have risen within their organisation in the past 12 months;
  • 65% of IT decision-makers have felt under increasing pressure to keep their organisation running effectively in the last 12 months (outside of Covid-19);
  • And 80% of those respondents say this has had a negative impact on them personally
  • Four in ten have experienced anxiety and 35% are suffering from increased stress
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Further reading

Understanding the IT Paradox

Read the key takeaways from the research report to understand whether it’s time for the IT function to renew its core purpose to meet both business support and innovation imperatives.

Reconfiguring IT: Balancing Support and Innovation

Understand the steps you can take to restore the right balance in your IT department, reducing strain on the team and helping to push your business forward.

Available downloads

The full IT Paradox report

Shifts in the perception of IT have created something of a paradox which leads us to the question: is it time for the IT function to renew its core purpose? Read the full report to find out more.

Visualising the IT Paradox

We surveyed 200 IT decision-makers and 200 business leaders from mid-size businesses to understand IT perceptions and purpose and the biggest opportunities and challenges. Download the infographic to see the key findings.

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