When most of us think of our company’s information technology (IT) team, we often think of the folks we call in to retrieve our forgotten passwords or clear up a virus on our computers… or fix our mouse because it was unplugged. Between 2001 and 2011, more than 742,000 new IT jobs were created in the United States, an increase of 29.1% compared to employment as a whole which only grew 0.2%. There’s no question that our IT teams are a valuable resource to a company, especially during that moment of panic when the dreaded blue screen of death pops up or the file we swore we saved disappears. However, is IT’s only responsibility troubleshooting and fixing glitches?

As technology plays a bigger and bigger role in the way we do business today, the IT department is a gold mine of innovation if companies are willing to tap into it. With so many of us becoming so tech-savvy these days, it is tempting for companies to downsize IT staffing. If the technology is so user friendly, who needs IT? With this mentality, however, it is only innovation that will get downsized.

The first thing we need to do to help our IT department thrive is to take an honest look at what our current expectations are for them. Do we challenge them to accomplish great things and provide them with training and funding or do we still only view them as the break-fix group? The next step to success is organization. We need to create plans and processes for coming up with ideas and encourage everyone, including IT, to be a part of it.

To truly integrate IT into our innovative pursuits, we must use them as a resource to train the rest of the company. Identify the skills people need to come up with new ideas and let IT help employees turn these ideas into reality.

Finally, it is important to recognize the fact that we all need to feel appreciated. When IT pros work with other departments and customers to use technology to benefit the company, it is a cause for the whole company to celebrate.