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The Role of IT in Innovation: Friend or Foe?

The Role of IT in Innovation: Friend or Foe?

A lack of IT agility can stop growth dead in its tracks, but so can a business that fails to see IT as a strategic partner

Here's IT as an innovation enabler: An innovative IT team moves forward in step with the changing demands of the business — sometimes a little behind, sometimes in front, but for the most part, keeping in sync. That's how Stephen Agnoli, CIO at global law firm K&L Gates, sees it. This year K&L was honoured with a CIO 100 award by CIO (US), which is given to 100 companies whose IT innovations have transformed their businesses.

Innovative IT. Transformative IT. IT that drives the business forward. While that might sound lofty — genius IT folks locked away in a creativity closet — companies such as K&L Gates and other leading companies are marked by IT that works in true partnership with the business. That partnership can provide new areas for growth and set a company apart from its competition.

Agnoli says that the company's CEO, Peter Kalis, sees IT as a key business driver and considers Agnoli crucial to conversations of strategy and innovation. Agnoli, for his part, says he is working to lead an IT department that is business-oriented (he forbids the use of tech acronyms in the presence of business colleagues), well-oiled ("It's hard to find time to innovate if your foundation's not strong") and agile ("If [the business] keeps looking backward and IT is still in the same place, that's a problem").

At K&L, the IT-business partnership resulted in its Legal Information System — an information-sharing application that gives lawyers and staff the ability to share data about legal cases, US state and federal statutes, and legal commentary and analysis with its clients. K&L cites the system, which now has 700 users, as a market differentiator that has allowed the law firm to triple its revenue to $US5 million per year.

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