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Can IT Pros Succeed Without A Bigger Role In Business?

Is your current IT role giving you the kind of well-rounded opportunities you need to succeed in the next five to 10 years? There seems to be a disconnect between opportunity and expectation when it comes to how IT pros are viewed in the larger context of enterprise digital transformation. Here's what we learned from the 2016 InformationWeek US IT Salary Survey.
Gartner's 10 Tech Predictions That Will Change IT
Gartner's 10 Tech Predictions That Will Change IT
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When we talk about the career path of an IT professional, it's easy to envision a straight road lined by various IT-related job functions, with the CIO's chair as your ultimate destination.

Yet, research firms like Accenture warn IT organizations run the risk of being marginalized as enterprises pursue digital transformation. According to Gartner's 2017 CIO Agenda, your company's ability to build a digital ecosystem could mean the difference between success and failure in the years ahead. Career advisors of all stripes advise IT pros to pursue "stretch" roles in order to become true leaders.

The question then becomes: Is your current IT role giving you the kind of well-rounded opportunities you need to succeed in the next five to ten years?

[Wondering whether it's time to cozy up to your finance chief? Read 5 Reasons The CIO And CFO Should Be Best Friends.]

The results of the 2016 InformationWeek US IT Salary Survey give us a mixed view. A majority of IT staffers and managers surveyed said they have held a full-time position outside the IT function. Yet, far fewer said their current roles involve spending at least some time with peers in a business unit outside of IT.

More than half (53%) of the survey's 1,535 IT staff respondents said they have held a full-time position outside of the IT function, and 55% of the 1,390 IT manager respondents said the same.

Non-IT roles varied widely among respondents. Some of the more common ones for staffers were marketing/sales, non-IT support functions, and operations/supply chain/manufacturing. For managers, the most common non-IT roles included marketing/sales, operations/supply chain/manufacturing, finance, and business development.

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Is all this non-IT experience going to waste? More than half of IT staff respondents (57%) said their current responsibilities are IT-focused only, and 40% of IT management respondents said the same. Staff respondents who do have some non-IT responsibilities in their current roles are mostly involved in R&D and in non-IT support functions.

One fifth of management respondents (21%) said they are involved in R&D in their current role, and 16% of IT staff respondents said the same. Only 12% of staffers and 16% of managers said they are involved in non-IT support functions.

Management respondents are also involved in areas such as business development, marketing/sales, facilities management, and operations/supply chain/manufacturing.

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These results raise an important question: Are IT professionals being given the opportunities they need to serve in the kinds of business-savvy tech roles expected of them?

There seems to be a disconnect between opportunity and expectation when it comes to how IT pros are viewed in the larger context of enterprise digital transformation. Can IT really help shape a tech-forward strategy for any business if the people working in it are not given "stretch' roles outside of IT? How many organizations are actually structured to enable this?

When IT staff respondents were asked whether spending time with peers in a business unit outside of IT is part of their role, 48% said no and another 25% said this applies to less than half of their job. Only 27% of respondents said spending time with peers in a non-IT business unit applies to 50% or more of their job.

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It's no surprise that managers, by the nature of their roles, might have more contact with business-side colleagues than their staffers do. This is reflected in the survey results, which show that most IT management respondents have at least some level of interaction with the business. For example, 39% of management respondents said spending time with peers in a business unit outside of IT applies to more than half their job. Nearly four in ten (37%) said reporting to a manager outside of IT applies to more than half their job.

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Part of the challenge revolves around who pays for IT. According to the survey results, salaries for staffers and managers alike are rarely allocated to a business outside of IT. Likewise, very few respondents said they're "embedded" in a business unit outside of IT.

While statistics are useful, they're no substitute for experience, and we want to hear about yours. Are you currently working in an IT role that involves some non-IT responsibility?

How much time does your job require you to spend with peers in a business unit outside of IT? Do you feel you have the kind of "stretch" opportunities that will prepare you for the digital future? Tell us all about it in the comments section below.

Want to know more about our IT salary survey results? Read: