On a recent roadshow I had the opportunity to visit and talk about innovation & research to IT leadership teams of some of the biggest/well-known corporations in US. Sadly most enterprise IT folks viewed innovation as mere application of new technologies, widgets etc. i.e SOA, BPM, Mobility. IT management practices in itself are rarely viewed as a source of innovation or catalyst to "business innovation".
Successful examples of truely innovative companies like Wal-Mart, Dell, Toyota, Progressive (Refer to HBR article "Deep Change: How operational innovation can transform your company") exemplify how IT can be exploited to achieve breakthrough business impact. IT leaders are supposedly in a unique position to champion this form of operational innovation. They have the broad top-management org-wide view of strategy, in addition are connected intimately with the nuts and bolts of key organizational & operational processes. Unlike HR or accounting leaders who might be constrained by their functional views & reach within the organization, IT managers have the resources and relationships to affect broad change and innovation. I have always held the view that IT function can be as good a breeding & training ground for general management leaders as finance, marketing functions.
YET, IT leaders are struggling to gain credibility, struggling to go beyond organizational cultures that devalues information technology. Worse many have abdicated the responsibility and instead of stepping up to the leadership challenge, view themselves primarily as a support/enabler function.
I believe it is this dangerous self-perception of IT as merely a support function that leads to some very dangerous trends of bureaucratic procedures, obsession with new technologies, us vs. them divide. Even the some of the popular industry language perpetuates this mindset i.e. "busines-IT alignment", as-if business (them) & IT (us) are different in the first place. Nobody talks of "business-marketing" or "business-finance" or "business-accounting" alignment.
IT leaders clearly have to step up and view themselves NOT as just supporting operational processes, but step up and show leadership in achieving operational innovation through effective & innovative IT management.