Business and IT remain two solitudes; survey finds

Although they haven’t yet filed for divorce, the marriage between business and Web technology is far from a harmonious one, a new study suggests.

Toronto-based consulting firm Towers Perrin last week released the results from its inaugural e-Track survey. Conducted this past summer, the study polled 232 executives across North America and found that just 15 per cent of respondents felt their companies had fully met their expectations from Web technology.

This number plummeted to four per cent when the focus was specifically on results from Web-based HR activities, Towers Perrin said.

Despite disappointing results and economic pressures to contain costs, the survey also found that two-thirds of respondents would either maintain or increase investments in Web technology.

Less than a quarter of respondents felt their company would reduce technical investments, particularly in areas where online technologies could potentially produce efficiency and cost-savings benefits.

A successful marriage between business and technology is based on a comprehensive implementation plan to fully realize the potential of Web technology, said Minaz Lalani, Canadian e-business group leader at Towers Perrin. The survey suggests that companies need to ensure that a proper infrastructure and resources are in place in order to complete projects.

“When companies got into these Web projects, I think they did not clearly articulate what the expectations were from it. They did more what I call qualitative analysis,” Lalani said.

“Project plans were based on getting something put up there – online sales channels, customer relationship tools (but) what was missing was a quantitative set of metrics.”

Areas that saw increased investment were internal people-related activities, particularly recruitment and training. The study found that barriers to change are institutional in nature, specifically putting insufficient priority, budget and know-how behind implementation.

Nineteen per cent of respondents cited employee resistance as a barrier to achieving desired results.

Just under half agreed that the Internet has changed business practices and processes, with 20 per cent calling it a transformational event. Not a single respondent felt that the Internet is “more hype than reality” despite the fact most had not achieved the expected results from Web technologies, the survey found.

The survey also suggests the move to Web technologies is placing an increased burden on workers, with 84 per cent of respondents agreeing that the current work environment creates stress for employees and managers that impacts work performance.

Lalani said that companies would need to integrate business processes with Web tools for maximum benefits.

Companies have to manage the individual Web pieces sufficiently well to pull it all together, said Larry Karnis, senior consultant at Application Enhancements Inc. in Brampton, Ont. He said companies aren’t aware of everything they need to do in order to take the project to successful completion.

“One of the things that seems to come up over and over again, is how committed is top management to making the change happen. If top management is not 125 per cent behind the change, it will not happen,” Karnis said.

“There are too many benefits to be had by doing this. If anything, the current economic climate actually helps to accelerate these sorts of initiatives.”

Towers Perrin in Toronto is at