There's a lot of talk going on about getting ready for a post-recessionary world. ‘Be prepared for the upturn' is the cry. I'd like to nip this in the bud.

Firstly, who says the recession is coming to an end? Given the ongoing financial chaos, we need to be thinking about today's market conditions as the ‘new normal'.

Secondly, the idea of the IT function as a centre of innovation seems logical but in reality organisations typically want their IT function to keep the networks running. So, while IT is core to innovation, the latter is not core to the IT function, and getting CIOs excited about the upturn and their new role of Chief Innovation Officer is in many cases going to lead to disappointment.

The board-imposed CIO agenda will be cost- and operational service-focused for some time to come. It is difficult to make innovative suggestions related to business strategy while in parallel the new CRM implementation is damaging the company's brand. So should we just accept that the role of the IT function is important but not strategically important? Yes, if the IT function does not get its value act together.

So before we make a bid to extend our remit beyond IT and into innovation, we need to get our own house in order and this means agreeing to an unambiguous service-level proposition. The next step is to offload infrastructure applications to competent service providers. Once the user community recognises that your IT function is focused on business service rather than IT projects, it will be time to move to the next level. Unveiling business value through the use of business-intelligence tools will wow the users. Digital dashboards that support both corporate governance and better decision-making will impress the boardroom too.

The next step is to deliver on the human front. Workflow and groupware systems are soft entry points into the world of innovation. The next level up is unified communications and this is an innovative business game changer. The ability to enable users and customers to communicate via their preferred medium should lead to a more responsive and profitable organisation.

So the four steps to becoming recognised as an innovator are:

1. Chief ‘IT manager' Officer
2. Chief ‘IT service' Officer
3. Chief Intelligence Officer
4. Chief Collaboration Officer.

Now that you are associated with innovation it will be easier to make the play for the Chief Innovation Officer position.