Over half of businesses primarily rely on IT departments to increase efficiency of their operations, according to the findings from a global survey conducted by Juniper Networks and the Economist Intelligence Unit.

However, it was noted that IT was largely falling short of expectations to drive business growth in new areas.

"Businesses still view the IT function in the traditional role of improving process efficiency. However, to really take advantage of an increasingly digitized world, companies need to recognize the potential value of IT as a collaborative partner in identifying new opportunities," said Rozina Ali, deputy editor, Economist Intelligence Unit.

It was found that the highest-performing companies--those that reported a stronger financial performance than their industry peers--saw a different role for IT in key areas of their business as compared to their peers.

According to the findings, 11 percent more of the high-performing companies strongly agreed that the IT function can support business growth by identifying new market opportunities. Additionally, eight percent more of the high-performing companies said that the IT function was very closely involved in helping them develop new products and services.

"We must embrace disruptive technologies such as cloud and mobile, which are propelling business growths to create an opportunity for IT to step out of a support function into a more strategic role. By creating new products and services and identifying new market opportunities, IT can truly transform and technologically enable the business," said Bask Iyer, senior vice president and CIO, Juniper Networks.

Today, businesses are rushing to keep up with exponential data growth and meet fast-changing market needs for digital services. Financial institutions are delivering mobile banking applications while gaming companies are rebuilding their game catalogues as online services. As companies rush to deliver these new services, IT has an opportunity to play a role advancing these new business initiatives.

While most IT departments are not yet widely seen to be driving business growth, the companies surveyed predict the role of IT will begin shifting from being tools of efficiency to being engines of growth. Sixty percent of respondents reported that IT will be very closely or somewhat closely involved in helping to develop new products or services for the company over the next three years.

Global respondents have predicted that the top technology investments over the next three years will be in business information analysis (33 percent), followed by business process management (31 percent), cloud computing/virtualization (29 percent) and mobile devices (26 percent).

Respondents also reported that the top technology trends influencing the competitiveness of their organization over the next three years include collaboration and information sharing through networks (31 percent), the widespread availability of mobile devices (31 percent), and the ubiquitous nature of connected devices and integrated systems (27 percent).

The survey covered 474 respondents across Germany, Japan, the U.K. and the United States. Fifty-one percent of respondents are C-level and board members and the remaining are senior executives and managers.