A good friend recently reminded me that most IT users don't really care about technology - they care about the service that technology delivers. Great CIOs understand that having great technology is less important than delivering great user experiences. My friend cautioned against the tendency to equate technology with service, and urged CIOs to look in the mirror and ask themselves if their IT departments are perceived as "corporate-style DMVs."

There's an excellent reason why we always talk about people, processes and technology. You need all three to provide the best possible IT service. You simply cannot get the job done with great technology alone.

But here's the really important takeaway: CIOs who can't deliver great service will never be able to deliver the value that corporate leadership wants and demands from IT. I've written a lot in the past three years about the transformation of IT from a cost center to a value center. The CIO now has a seat at the C-suite table, and the C-suite expects the CIO to deliver real business value!

Delivering real business value is a major part of what I've been calling "The Big Shift." In the past, CIOs were under constant pressure to reduce costs. While that pressure hasn't gone away entirely, it's been replaced by new pressure to help the business units drive revenue. The old game was all about the bottom line; the new game is about both the bottom line and the top line.

Another key component of "The Big Shift" is the change in focus from internal users to external customers. Increasingly, IT is serving the company's customers. Unlike internal "customers," external customers generate revenues. If they don't receive great service from your company, they won't merely complain - they will find another company to serve their needs, and your company will lose revenue.

Without a doubt, the game has been elevated and the stakes for IT are far higher than ever before. That's why I call it "The Big Shift" - the role of IT is changing enormously and rapidly.

If the new role of IT is enabling the business to deliver value, then delivering great service is clearly a prerequisite. Internal users might be willing to put up with spotty service, but external customers have choices and they will walk. Great CIOs see the writing on the wall, and have already prepared for next level of competition.

Are you ready to play the game at a higher level?