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The Next Evolution of IT Leadership

IT leaders have become a vital part of revenue growth strategy. Product companies should harness their skills to drive business value.

The post-pandemic pains of IT leaders are well-documented. IT teams are stretched thin and strained. They’re understaffed and underfunded.

“Solutions” range from throwing more money into the IT budget, relaxing oversight of non-IT sourced business applications, or simply telling IT teams to do more with the same or fewer resources.

In reality, these answers don’t address the true problem: IT leaders are feeling more pains because they are trying to fit outsized functionality into a business model that no longer meets the needs of the market.

Let’s face it: the role of IT needs to evolve.

Consumers went digital while IT’s back was turned

In 2021, the Economist published a report tracing the changes in IT infrastructure amid external disruption, in which they concluded that “the IT function will need to forge a new role for itself based on its ability to deliver business resilience for the long term.” 

While IT was absorbed by internal-facing digital transformation, a huge opportunity was looming large, and (for the most part) being neglected. The opportunity to drive innovation with real revenue impact still lay ahead. 

Employees weren’t the only ones moving to a digital space; technology also became increasingly critical in the behavior of consumers. In fact, 63% of consumers said the pandemic had greatly altered their expectations when purchasing products, according to a survey conducted by Propel and OnePoll

Suddenly, a new product release wasn’t enough to drive customers. The rising importance of omnichannel marketing was creating pressure to rethink the depth and quality of online customer experiences.

But most product companies, still reeling from two years of nearly continuous disruption, are several steps behind. And the market isn’t waiting for them to catch up.

Though IT proved to be an extremely powerful force after successfully moving their workforce to a remote environment with rapid deployment, many product companies have yet to harness that same power for this new challenge: taking on the customer-first revolution.

Why isn’t your revenue growing with the rise of digital demand? Ask your CIO. 

Most product companies are facing two big challenges: collaboration and reduced budgets. 

First, there is a gap between product and commercial teams, where collaboration and communication between the two remain difficult. Considering their direct involvement in business processes and continuous contact with stakeholders, no one has a better vantage of this situation than IT leaders. 

Case in point, 75% of IT leaders surveyed by Propel and Acceleration Economy confirmed their product and commercial teams don’t collaborate effectively.

A bigger gap between product and commercial teams equates to a bigger gap between your brand and your customer. When product information isn’t adequately shared with marketing and sales, they have to hunt it down—slowing the process and leading to inaccurate content. That’s a dangerous game to play when 24% of consumers will break up with a brand over inconsistent or obsolete online product information.

Moreover, Propel’s survey of IT leaders found that 82% observe a delay in sales and marketing until late in the product development process. This can result in longer time to market, poor customer experiences, and higher costs.

The second challenge faced by IT teams at product companies is being asked to do more with fewer resources. Amid the unprecedented pandemic upheaval, CIOs have already driven modernization at a breakneck pace with limited budgets. Now they’re faced with a 1-2 punch just a short time later, with the threat of a recession forcing even stricter cost-cutting measures.

It is no wonder LinkedIn feeds are flooded with think pieces about IT burnout given all the disconnected business systems they have to juggle and team collaboration they have to single-handedly support remotely—all with a stricter budget thanks to a 40-year inflation high.

The New Role of CIO: From a Cost Center to Revenue Driver

It’s time for CIOs to evolve past the day-to-day maintenance of business processes, and take a seat at the leadership table where their direct involvement can help shape decisions that will deliver long-term corporate value and revenue growth.

CIOs who empower business leaders with a single source of product truth as a way to modernize legacy systems, improve collaboration, and enable responsiveness will realize an unfair advantage over competitors that move slower and lack the visibility to make informed decisions for their business.

"Connecting the entire value chain—including suppliers and customers—makes it easier for CIOs to partner with business leaders to transform how products drive real value from concept to customer."

Increasingly, CIOs are focusing on single platform solutions to enable and streamline routine processes and empower collaboration across the entire organization. Plus, lowering the total cost of ownership (TCO) by consolidating several platforms into one would greatly alleviate budget hardships in the current economic downturn. 

That’s both the major challenges facing IT today—collaboration management and cost restrictions—eliminated in one strategic swoop.

More to the point, however, these solutions are the key to tapping into the customer-driven market. Technology is a great enabler that is providing companies with the insight to quickly identify changing market conditions and customer needs, and the flexibility to quickly adjust and take advantage of those changes. 

Connecting the entire value chain—including suppliers and customers—makes it easier for CIOs to partner with business leaders to transform how products drive real value from concept to customer. This is more important than ever to a company’s success, which in turn is making the CIO more strategic than ever. 

Equip your IT leaders to gain the competitive edge

Having both customer and product records on a single platform has the power to deliver visibility, collaboration, and insights across the entire value chain. These heightened performance capabilities help companies define and evolve products over their lifetime, optimize successful economic outcomes, and engage customers with compelling products and experiences.

Additionally, the ROI of using a single platform for all of this is huge. The TCO is significantly lower with single platform solutions because there is no need for integrations or additional administrators. Plus, IT has less hassle with juggling applications and spends less time training business users. 

This means companies are not only able to work better and faster; their IT leaders are free to focus on higher-impact, revenue-driving projects. 

Once they are relieved of managing product and commercial collaboration, IT leaders can and should take their seat at the revenue-generation table, driving the digital strategy to delight customers. 

If the IT leadership role evolves to its full strategic capabilities, it’s a win-win. When IT can finally stop putting out fires and focus on revenue, companies will swiftly outpace their competitors.

To learn about a new approach to product strategy that maximizes the revenue-driving capabilities of IT, check out "Product Value Management is the Future."

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Post by
Ron Hess
CTO & Co-Founder, Propel

Ron has deep experience as a technical and innovation thought leader, including 10+ years of experience as a Salesforce architect, evangelist and program manager. Prior to Propel, Ron was the principal architect at Kenandy, building the next generation of ERP on the Salesforce platform.

Fun Fact: Ron is a licensed private pilot glider.

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Ron Hess