Traditional IT is dead: Your IT Manager is now your Chief Productivity Officer

If you think that the primary role of IT is to assign email addresses, address network outages and control the software you can access, then it’s time for a perspective shift. While they still handle many of these tasks, today’s top IT teams see themselves as productivity leaders—maybe even Chief Productivity Officers—as we learned when we hosted ten heads of IT from the Bay Area’s most innovative companies for a roundtable discussion last week.

From scaling technology to support hypergrowth, to optimizing new office space, to finding tools that promote company culture, the hottest issues facing the IT leaders we talked to all point to the evolving role of IT in the enterprise. As these industry leaders see it, their mission is to identify and implement solutions that make the entire company more productive.

And the evolution extends beyond how these productivity leaders view themselves. Those who attended our roundtable refer fondly to their coworkers as “customers” or “users.” As the head of IT from a payments company put it, “We’re an IT services company with a single customer. We’re there to help [our coworkers] get stuff done faster and make more money. So if they’re not happy, we’re not doing our job.”

Take, for example, the way that IT leaders now manage “dark IT,” the term for unauthorized technology on work computers (examples include the file-sharing service Dropbox and the note-taking app Evernote, which are also popular among consumers). In the past, many in the group said, they likely would have taken a “command-and-control” approach and blocked the software. Instead, they now view dark IT as a way to understand the kinds of programs that people need to do their jobs so that they can make it easier and more secure to use them.

“I’d rather know about it and help them,” concluded the head of IT at a digital media company, referring to the apps and programs his coworkers use.

One way some IT leaders are gaining this visibility is by implementing SSO (Single Sign On) technologies such as Okta, which make it easy to sign into any app with a single password. This gives them a complete view of which apps people are using and how often they’re using them, providing crucial intel that helps them drive even more productivity for their “customers.”

Another novel idea comes from the head of IT at a global transportation company. He created a “Safe SaaS” program, providing a list of criteria that software should meet to secure rapid approval, rather than forcing coworkers to wait six months to get a green light from an IT steering committee. “Today we’re asking, ‘How do you remain relevant and deliver an experience on par with the consumer web?’ We want to maintain a low level of friction for users. We’re all on the same side of the table,” he explained.

While it’s clear that this evolving approach to IT has major benefits, the group we met with last week seemed content to take quiet pride in the impact they’re making on their organizations. Today, the most innovative IT leaders are checking their egos at the door, rolling up their sleeves and doing everything they can to make their companies as productive as possible.