Exec survey suggests business, IT still sparring

CA, Inc. has released a survey by the Toronto-based Strategic Counsel that charts the ongoing disconnect between executives and their IT staff, and found that the two still need to get it together.

The Strategic Counsel surveyed 240 Canadian enterprises this spring, and found that, while the IT side is pretty down on themselves, the business side thinks they’re even worse. Only 39.1 per cent of execs of the business decisionmakers rated their IT workers as being effective or very effective at aligning with business priorities.

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The IT side didn’t think much better of their performance—59.5 per cent of those respondees rated themselves as effective or very effective at meeting those priorities.

“I expected some disparity,” said vice-president and country manager for CA Canada Jimmy Fulton. “I thought that IT might value itself a little higher at least. But the key point is that IT is still not getting the respect, the visibility, or the strategic significance.”

This is becoming increasingly crucial, according to Igor Abramovitch, the division director of consulting services with the North York, Ontario branch of Robert Half Technology. “When it comes to general IT talent, business acumen is becoming more important. People are looking a lot more for the IT professional who understands the goals for the enterprise,” he said. “You need to bring more IT for a seat at the table.”

Another 30.4 per cent of execs—versus 56.2 per cent of IT staffers—rated their IT organizations as effective or very effective at managing IT costs .

Info-Tech Research Group senior research analyst Jen Perrier-Knox said, “There is a disconnect here—I’d hoped that, at this point, more progress would’ve been made. Business still looks at the IT department as a cost center, and they often still report to the CFO who is always looking at the bottom line. If they don’t have a stake in the business, they can’t communicate their value to the business. IT is not assertive or aggressive or assertive enough.”

End-user service only got the okay from 37.7 per cent of execs (versus 61.6 per cent of IT responders). This is an area where IT has the opportunity to shine, according to Perrier-Knox. She said, “A lot of IT modes are just in the mode of fighting fires. They’re too busy being tactical to act strategically.”

Why the ongoing troubles connecting with these business objectives? The survey found that respondees from the IT arena cited staff shortages, technology integration challenges, and lack of necessary funding as the top bugaboos.

The business side ranked aligning IT with business priorities, improving end-user service, and developing a proactive IT organization as the three things that IT was doing somewhat good at, although all three only received ratings of effective or very effective from around 35 per cent of respondees in each category.

It’s important for the IT department to act as its own PR agency—by putting a more positive and proactive image of IT staffers out there, their actions will be seen as more integral to the company bottom line. Making alliances with executives, sitting in on meetings, conducting tech-based lunch and learns, and performing friendly e-outreach with end users are all ways to make IT a welcome presence in the business hierarchy.

It might take a while, however. Said Perrier-Knox: “You are dealing with human beings, after all. Both sides want the other to cross the abyss first, so it comes down to individuals, and changing the culture can take a long time—maybe even a generation’s worth.”

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