The IT department is under pressure to change if it is to meet conflicting demands to support innovation while also saving cost.

The upshot is that tomorrow’s IT department will likely look very different to today’s, according to analysts from Gartner, who predict four divergent roles for the IT department of the future.

“We are witnessing the emergence of a new generation of CIOs, one that aims not so much to ‘run’ IT as to ensure that the business achieves strategic value from the use of technology,” said John Mahoney, VP and distinguished analyst at Gartner.

“Although this isn’t an entirely new development, the extent of the change is growing and a tipping point will be reached in the next five years.”

Looking past the next five years Gartner said the IT department will serve one, or a mix of, the four following roles:

1. IT as the engine room

The department delivers IT services rapidly at market-competitive prices.

The organisation succeeds by monitoring technology and market developments, and building expertise in IT asset optimisation, sourcing and vendor management, and IT financial management.

It delivers ongoing cost improvements, looks for new ways to deliver the same IT capabilities for less, and is highly responsive to changing business needs.

2. IT as a global service provider

The IT organisation is an integrated shared-service unit that runs like a business, delivering IT services and enterprise business processes.

It is virtually or fully centralised, focuses on business areas and value, adopts a marketing perspective and delivers competitive services.

3. IT “is” the business

Innovation within the IT organisation is seen as key to adding value to a firm’s core business or service.

This is suited to a company where information is either the businesses’ explicit product or is inseparable from its product.

4. Everyone’s IT

Staff and business leaders are given the freedom to decide on how they share information and collaborate using technology.

The focus is on allowing information to be shared rather than the technology used.

Gartners says this model is suited to what it calls “non-traditional” organisations, such as start-ups and R&D organisations.