Irrespective of how you answer the question ‘Are your IT systems costing you money or making you money?’, you are probably right.
In IT speak, the problem here is referred to as an infinite loop (a cycle that continues to loop back around on itself):
Line 1: IF Your IT systems are viewed as a cost only -> GOTO Line 2, ELSE GOTO Line 3
Line 2: Seek no ways to get more from your IT systems -> GOTO Line 1
Line 3: Extract more value from your IT systems -> GOTO Line 4
Line 4: IF value is realised -> GOTO Line 3
In non-IT speak, the problem is that while your firm does not perceive IT as an effective means of increasing profitability, improving efficiencies or enhancing client service; your firm is unlikely to ever have IT deliver these benefits.
Breaking out of the cycle
Breaking out of the negative cycle (line 1 and 2 above) is not likely to be achieved by trying to convince a reluctant partnership to invest significant sums of money in large IT projects, that will take months or years to show return on investment. The most effective first step is to find opportunities that demonstrate the highest possible value, with lowest possible investment.
Demonstrating quick results will start to create a positive cycle (line 3 and 4 above). Once in a positive cycle, where IT is driving efficiencies, allowing you to act on new opportunities and impressing your clients, this will create an even greater appetite to extract more from your IT investments.
The increasing divide
Fortunately for firms yet to break out of the negative cycle, there is no shortage of opportunities that have probably not even been considered. The capability divide between the firms in either cycle will continue to increase exponentially by the day, so making this seemingly subtle shift is not just important, but critical.
I would appreciate any input in the comments below. Has your firm been able to shift into the positive cycle or is IT still treated as an overhead in your firm?