IT departments are being left increasingly helpless to respond to innovations in the wider IT world, a situation that could see them sidelined, according to industry analysts.

A new report from the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) found that senior executives saw great potential in so-called web 2.0 technologies, but their IT departments lacked the resources and experience to be able to put more interactive web applications into place.

Separately, a report from PA Consulting and the London School of Economics (LSE) also found that CIOs were struggling to adapt to the new world of blogs and virtual worlds such as Second Life, though such technologies are held to be important.

The EIU's report, based on interviews with 406 senior executives, found that 79 percent of respondents believed web 2.0 features such as blogs and social networks could improve revenues and lower costs.

Sixty-eight percent said they expect web 2.0 to be the biggest factor influencing the way their company interacts with customers, while 49 percent said it would be the most important influence affecting how employees communicate with the business and one another.

But more than one-quarter of executives said their IT departments lacked the competence to put web 2.0 applications into place. One-third said their IT departments simply didn't have the resources to consider developing such applications.

Such problems show that IT departments are struggling to respond to new technological developments with innovation, instead remaining focused on automation and cost-cutting, according to the LSE report.

It found that online trading systems such as eBay and virtual worlds such as Second Life, alongside web 2.0, were important developments that companies were having a hard time finding ways of benefiting from.

The report echoes the remarks of Steve Prentice, vice president and distinguished analyst at Gartner, who used the opening keynote of this week's Gartner Symposium/ITxpo in San Francisco to lambast IT executives' lack of vision.

"The industry seems to be missing the visionaries, whose drive and ambition to challenge conventional wisdom either with technology innovation or business process innovation can make the difference," he said at the event.

He urged businesses to begin experimenting with Second Life, though he said businesses won't be able to profit from it for several more years. Gartner also urged companies to be more aggressive with communications architectures and to establish innovation as a key part of the IT department.

"Most IT organisations simply cannot deliver new value, new processes, new markets, and new channels because their DNA is fundamentally about control, which is the opposite of what you need for innovation and growth," said Jennifer Beck, group vice president at Gartner, in a statement.