There’s a new sheriff in town for IT teams: the customer. A study by Salesforce Research shows that 81% of tech leaders believe IT is entering a new era driven by customer expectations. And those customer expectations — for personal, immediate, and proactive experiences — are higher than ever. In fact, 70% of consumers say technology has made it easier than ever to take their business elsewhere. Given this climate, it’s clear to see why three-quarters of tech leaders say IT is in the midst of the biggest historical shift of its role [CLICK TO TWEET].

Published today, the second annual “State of IT” research report reveals what’s top of mind for IT leaders, based on a survey of over 2,200 tech leaders worldwide. This research gives you a window into IT teams’ challenges, strategic objectives, success metrics, and more, plus an in-depth look at factors influencing IT industry trends.

IT stands at a crossroads of change. Companies are increasingly adopting customer-centric models. Business units like sales, customer service, and marketing — tasked with creating new experiences that meet elevated customer expectations — are changing their views to see IT as a strategic partner. IT now has the opportunity to not only improve customer-facing tech, but to transform it.

Here’s a quick overview of four findings from the “State of IT” research.

1. Tech Leaders Experience Blurring Lines between IT and Business Units
Most IT leaders agree that the industry is experiencing the biggest historical shift of its role. Seventy-one percent of IT organizations are shifting efforts from being a technology-providing cost center to a value-based service brokerage over the next 12–18 months. Today, IT is the central nervous system enabling business transformation, partnering with departments to orchestrate experiences with connected data and new capabilities.


2. IT Pushes Boundaries as the Innovation Imperative Tips the Scales
The battle between innovating and “keeping the lights on” is nothing new for IT leaders, yet the business’ appetite for innovation grows stronger by the minute. Top IT teams are 3.5x more likely than underperforming teams to say it’s a critical priority to innovate for industry disruption. At the same time, tech leaders are faced with critical skill gaps among staff in nearly every area of IT.

3. IT Tackles the Struggle for Speed
Speed is an ever-present subject for IT teams. Sixty-seven percent of IT leaders say improving the speed of development cycles is a high priority [CLICK TO TWEET]. And while speed is an important success metric, it’s also a top challenge. To improve, IT leaders are exploring options such as low-code solutions and citizen development. Some concerns — namely, security and insufficient governance or training — still hold IT teams back from putting business users into the driver’s seat.

4. IT Prepares for the Flood of Artificial Intelligence

Customers and employees alike have high expectations for the impact of artificial intelligence (AI). Three-quarters of business buyers expect that by 2020, companies will anticipate their needs and make relevant suggestions before they contact them. Among employees, 65% agree that AI automating or assisting in work-related activities will have a major or moderate impact on daily work life at their organization by 2020.

IT teams expect AI use to jump 30% over the next 12–18 months [CLICK TO TWEET]. While many tech teams are actively defining AI plans, less than a quarter have comprehensively mapped their path forward. As the AI wave gains momentum, work remains for IT teams solidifying their plans for implementation. Similar industry studies such as the “State of Sales” show that other business units are planning for more aggressive AI growth. Over the next three years, for example, sales teams expect 139% growth in using AI to automatically recommend products to customers based on their preferences.    

For more about the changing role of IT in a customer-driven era — and exclusive research on how top IT teams stay ahead of the curve — download the full “State of IT” report.