Are IT execs wimps, does business bully IT?

IT managers are the first to admit they need to be more assertive and that they often let other business managers off the hook too easily when an IT project falls apart.

Queensland-based Parmalat IT special projects officer Merv Amos said it is true some of his peers do get pushed around because of a lack of assertive communication skills.

He said business unit managers tend to walk away from a failed IT project while IT carries the blame when it is not solely at fault.

“Sometimes senior executives don’t want to take advice from IT and go ahead making decisions that don’t always have the best result,” Amos said.

If IT is a real source of value to the organization, he said, it needs to be well positioned within the company.

“Our IT manager is a former accountant, so he has greater success when dealing with business managers and just handled our major SAP upgrade; it is not always easy to articulate the value that IT delivers,” he said.

Harvard Business School professor Rob Austin believes IT shouldn’t just be blowing in the wind and reacting to business requirements as they arise but should sell IT as a core competency.

However, Austin warned that recognition of IT as a core competency is rare among CEOs.

Organizations burned by broken promises and failed IT projects are everywhere, according to John Forrest, CEO of software company Prism International.

He claims business is booming as Prism targets those who have been bitten in the past.

“Disillusionment is rife, so there are plenty of opportunities,” Forrest said.

He advises the most sceptical prospects to spend A$10,000 (US$6,423) on a pilot to measure value, adding: “Our customers tend to pay one-third to one-fifth of what they expect to pay and receive a payback period of less than 18 months.”

The business process modelling vendor is a provider in the government, distribution and logistics, and healthcare industries of software that maps the performance of applications at granular level to fit business goals.

He said the X.EN (eXtended ENterprise) product family works at three levels by capturing business goals and supporting processes, then creates a software model for the business based on that information.

Forrest said applications are then assembled to fit the business and promises ROI in less than 18 months. A local customer is the Australian Computer Society (ACS) which uses the software for financials and membership, he said.