Over half of businesses rely on IT departments to increase the efficiency of their operations, but IT is "largely falling short of expectations" to drive business growth in new areas, according to the Economist Intelligence Unit.
The Economist questioned 475 senior executives across Germany, Japan, the UK and the US.
The survey showed the highest-performing companies - those who reported their financial performance was stronger than their industry peers - identified a different role for IT in key areas of their business.
When compared to their peers 20 percent more of the high-performing companies said technology played a "very strong role" in their organisation's financial performance.
In addition 11 percent more of the high-performing companies strongly agreed that the IT function can support business growth by identifying new market opportunities.
Also, eight percent more of the high-performing companies say the IT function is very closely involved in helping develop new products and services.
While most IT departments are not yet widely seen driving business growth, the companies surveyed predict the role of IT will begin shifting "from tools of efficiency to engines of growth".
In the survey 60 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.
But as of today, very few business respondents successfully collaborated with IT on strategic business imperatives such as identifying new market opportunities (nine percent), identifying new innovations (six percent) or developing a competitive strategy (five percent).
Respondents said the top technology investments over the next three years would be business information analysis (33 percent), followed by business process management (31 percent), cloud computing/virtualisation (29 percent) and mobile devices (26 percent).
Rozina Ali, deputy editor of the Economist Intelligence Unit, said,"Businesses still view the IT function in the traditional role of improving process efficiency. However, to really take advantage of an increasingly digitised world, companies need to recognise the potential value of IT as a collaborative partner in identifying new opportunities."
Juniper Networks sponsored the research. Bask Iyer, CIO of Juniper Networks, said, "We must embrace disruptive technologies such as cloud and mobile that are propelling business growth to create an opportunity for IT to step out of a support function into a more strategic role."