For IT leaders seeking to move beyond being order takers and instead meet business colleagues eye to eye, the time is now, as IT teams are at risk of being excluded when key business decisions are made, according to a new study by IDC.\n\nOver 20% of North American line-of-business (LOB) leaders said that IT did not have a \u2018seat at the table\u2019 in their enterprise when it came to making key business decisions. Globally, 16% said that IT did not have a seat at the table, with only 43% saying it did, and the rest having no opinion.\n\nThat the executives surveyed were LOB leaders, not IT leaders, lends insight into how IT departments are viewed by their colleagues, and what is expected of them.\n\n\u201cIt\u2019s quite eye opening because they\u2019re saying yes, there is a value in IT, but IT is still seen in that support role versus the business value role,\u201d Jennifer Thomson, an associate vice-president at IDC and one of the report\u2019s authors, told CIO.com. \u201cMaybe that\u2019s why there are so many people that are neutral, because they can\u2019t see beyond the support role, what the value is in IT having a bigger seat at the table.\u201d\n\nAs further evidence of the gap between IT and LOBs, only 47% of leaders surveyed said they prefer to use in-house IT resources rather than third parties, and only 42% said they were willing to collaborate with IT.\n\nLeaders in manufacturing and supply chain, R&D, or security and compliance functions were the most likely to see IT as excluded from key decision making, according to the study, which was sponsored by systems integrator Insight. IDC surveyed 1,000 executives from director level up to the C-suite, 30% of them in North America and the rest across Western Europe. They represented manufacturing, healthcare, financial services, retail, hospitality, energy, mining, and public sector organizations, among others.\n\nShifting to a business value mindset\n\nFor many IT leaders, turning that tide may require a new approach. CIOs can demonstrate their value to the business and earn that seat at the table by tying what they do to business goals, Thomson suggested.\n\n\u201cOne of the biggest challenges that IT people have is being able to communicate their business value in a language that the business understands,\u201d she said. \u201cTalking in business outcomes is the currency that enables IT to gain trust and show the value that they\u2019re delivering.\u201d\n\nIn addition to mastering business concepts and taking steps to prove the value of IT, CIOs who are succeeding at this are putting in place seamless teams where there\u2019s no wall between IT and the business, she said. \u201cIt\u2019s just seen as one cross-functional team where everybody understands the common goal that is driving all the business decisions.\u201d\n\nSuch strategic maneuvers are essential to becoming a digital business, one where value creation is based on and dependent on the use of digital technologies, from how processes are run to the products, services, and experiences it provides, Thomson said.\n\nSo too is aligning IT to key business objectives. The most common goal for IT according to business leaders is greater efficiency, which was cited by 45% of survey respondents, first in all regions, most industries, and most business functions. Increased productivity was cited by 37% and topped the list of objectives in the energy and mining industries and the R&D function. Improved service quality (cited by 32%) was highly ranked in the public sector and in customer experience and R&D functions. Faster time to market was highly ranked in the financial services industry and the security function, while increased revenue topped the concerns in the manufacturing industry and manufacturing or supply chain functions.\n\nSenior executives are taking a close interest in how digital transformation initiatives are helping achieve these company-wide goals. In 66% of organizations surveyed, the CEO is actively or personally involved in defining the digital strategy of the organization, and in 61% such initiatives are centrally orchestrated with a long-term plan and governance.\n\nThat high-level attention is on the up, too, with 48% of organizations reporting more C-suite scrutiny of digital initiatives over the past year, and only 20% less.\n\nMetrics of success\n\nWith that attention has come increased scrutiny of digital progress. Roughly half (51%) of respondents say that metrics are becoming more specific and granular, with 44% saying metrics are being reported to the C-suite more frequently, and 39% that they are focused on a shorter time frame.\n\n\u201cWe\u2019ve seen a number of organizations move from yearly to six-monthly to quarterly and in some cases monthly measuring and reporting on metrics or KPIs,\u201d Thomson said.\n\nBut there\u2019s a danger here that more frequent or more granular reporting can cause executives to lose sight of the bigger picture.\n\n\u201cYou need to have both short-term and longer-term metrics, so that your digital initiatives aren\u2019t shortsighted, but they focus on the long-term business impact,\u201d she said.\n\nWhen it came to the technologies business leaders said were essential to their digital transformation efforts, there were also differences in the long and short term.\n\nOver the next 12 months, cybersecurity was seen as essential by 63% of business leaders and SaaS applications by 43%, followed by edge technologies (39%), business analytics (37%), cloud infrastructure\/IaaS (26%), private 5G networks (26%), intelligent automation (16%), and cloud-native development\/PaaS (11%).\n\nIn the longer term the top technology was also cybersecurity, considered essential by 41% of respondents, but 3-5 years out those same leaders see private 5G networks (37%), edge technologies (36%), cloud infrastructure\/IaaS (32%), and cloud native development\/PaaS (30%) among the most important.\n\nThe need for cybersecurity also topped the list of drivers for digital business initiatives over the next 12 months, cited by 46%, followed by hybrid working models (42%) and sustainability or ESG (38%).\n\nIs the skills gap closing?\n\nDespite skills shortages being a top concern in many other surveys, only 12% of respondents in IDC\u2019s survey cited it as a driver for their digital business initiatives, putting it in eighth place.\n\nCybersecurity also showed up as the No. 1 threat, cited by 56%, with the skills gap way down in sixth place.\n\nPerhaps that\u2019s because respondents were LOB managers, and the skills they need are easier to find than IT skills. In any case, when asked about the biggest challenges to completing their digital transformation initiatives, business leaders put lack of essential technology skills in second place, alongside a lack of resources for change management (both cited by 39% of respondents), and behind privacy or security concerns (53%).