5 low-risk, high-reward experiments for IT

Redefine your relationship with the business with these five small-scale, forward-thinking experiments

The division of labor at most companies is clear: Business development divines the big ideas, and IT toils to turn these concepts into workable software. And yet as far as IT's stature in the organization is concerned, this flow of ideas can no longer be in one direction and one direction only. In fact, the IT department that willfully assumes the role of order-taker is increasingly at risk of being outsourced.

Luckily for IT, being on the front lines of new technologies has its privileges. Marry this with an entrepreneurial spirit, and IT can assert a new relationship with the business by launching new, low-cost experiments geared toward exposing opportunities that those less familiar with today's technologies can't foresee.

[ Also on InfoWorld: Keep your IT organization humming by avoiding the 7 deadly sins of IT management and IT's 20 most common mistakes. ]

But to be taken seriously by the suits, IT must move beyond mere tinkering; instead, purpose-driven testing and proven results, when brought back to the business team to help develop a plan that scales appropriately, is the key to shedding the "operations only" stigma and making the organization take notice of the ingenuity of IT.

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Of course, developing a meaningful prototype requires more than just an understanding of the underlying technology. It takes a level of cost-benefit analysis and insight into new revenue outlets that may not be as easy as the IT department would like to believe. After all, balancing the competing interests of customers and suppliers is just as tricky as balancing the load of a server farm. Here is where ambition can get the best of you. To avoid getting burned, a small-scale, low-risk approach to experimentation is key.

Here are five technical areas where experimentation can help IT improve its stature with the business development team. These are just a few examples of how IT can grow beyond keeping the server LEDs on and show the suits IT is a valuable partner when it comes to initiating revenue-minded projects.

Find out what options may be open for your enterprise:

Low-risk IT experiment No. 1: APIs

Low-risk IT experiment No. 2: Social networks

Low-risk IT experiment No. 3: Mobile apps

Low-risk IT experiment No. 4: Geocoding

Low-risk IT experiment No. 5: NoSQL

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