Just a few decades ago, the role of the IT department was simple -- IT managed an organization's on-premises technology infrastructure. Fast forward to 2017 and that's still true, though infinitely more complicated. CIOs today are bombarded with choices between on-prem and cloud solutions, endless apps and tools, and are thinking about which enterprise services could catapult their organization to the next level.

Today IT still manages technology infrastructure, but now has added power to influence the efficiency of the organization and its ecosystem of customers, partners and, in some cases, suppliers. Our latest Businesses @ Work report revealed three things that IT departments can do to create stronger, more efficient infrastructures for employees and customers.

Connect with customers in the cloud: Our data shows that the number of external identities -- partners, customers and suppliers -- is growing. Employees aren't the only ones who need to stay connected; customers do, too.

IT departments are now responsible for tuning into the technology needs of the external identities that partner with their organizations. They're not just onboarding new employees and providing tech support when something goes wrong with a specific technology, they now manage entire ecosystems of people that need to stay connected to be successful.

Embrace a mobile workforce: While most people still think of the work week as 40 hours, the reality of the new cloud and mobile world is that work happens at every hour and everywhere -- while commuting, at home, and sometimes even on vacation. Which is why it should come as no surprise that 56 percent of Okta customers are accessing work apps on a mobile device (up from 48 percent in November 2015).

This not only points to the growing mobile workforce, but entire industries -- think construction and sales -- that are increasingly reliant on cloud and mobile technology to keep their people working efficiently. If IT teams embrace mobility, they will improve efficiency, enabling every employee to access the tools they need whenever they're working, and wherever they are.

Adapt to employee work habits: If part of IT's responsibility is to give employees the tools they need to work efficiently, it's also their job to take a hard look at how they're working already. So, what are employees using today? Our data showed that more than 50 percent of the apps accessed through Okta were not provided by IT. In other words, users are supplementing the apps and services IT has assigned with tools they prefer.

When it comes to technology at work, employees are now calling the shots. They can use the services provided by IT while simultaneously bringing on the apps they love -- and in many cases, IT departments aren't in a position to stop it. But they can embrace it. If workarounds are helping employees work more efficiently, IT departments can use that feedback to power and secure new and improved systems company-wide.

There's a lot that's outside of CIOs' control -- like customers' expectations and the rapid evolution of technology. But a hard look at user trends show the points that are within their control. IT's role is more important than ever before, and if it's done right, it can build a foundation that keeps the organization running with strength, connectivity and efficiency.