Study finds IT-business marriage still rocky

Technology isn’t the problem, but its practitioners are.

That’s according to the Information Technology Service Management (ITSM) survey, published Tuesday by DMR Consulting, a business and IT consulting firm with offices in Canada and the U.S. In it, the company lists the responses to 38 questions it posed to 70 IT managers across Canada, the U.S. and the United Kingdom last summer.

The report, entitled Human Factor, Not Technology, is IT Department’s Greatest Challenge, found that a relationship exists between IT management and the overall efficiencies of business. But it appears IT departments aren’t utilizing their own resources very well.

“Companies have chosen productivity tools on the infrastructure side and we find a lot of times that the tools can be used more efficiently and deliver on what those tools originally promised when purchased,” said Hal Dally, ITSM practice director for DMR Consulting in Edison, N.J.

Given the state of the economy, the fact that IT departments are being asked to do more with less should come as no shock, Dally said. However, the more challenging issue facing IT is its old nemesis: the organization itself.

Historically, IT and business departments have led separate lives, co-existing by geography and only mingling at the company Christmas party when they were actually forced in the same room. Then, the focus for the IT department was running the entire show, implementing and upgrading systems. They wore one hat with several functions, and were always considered separate from core business decisions. Today, the unhappy marriage of IT and business continues, with nearly 70 per cent of respondents saying they are given critical business information only on a need-to-know basis, according to the DMR report.

“There is a gulf between IT and the business. The feeling was that from the standpoint of IT, they felt they were not involved early enough in some decisions being made in order to have input on changes and implementations,” Dally said.

It remains a complex debate, but it is an issue that should not even exist given how closely most business and IT departments overlap and relate, say experts. “IT should be an automatic part of the management process of the business, and you wouldn’t have this debate about getting involved. This means that you’re not a part of the planning process of the business to begin with and that’s the flaw,” said Ken Grant, director of Ryerson University’s school of information technology management in Toronto.

A former IT manager and consultant, Grant said he’s all too familiar with how few organizations are successful in aligning IT and business strategies. He said the culture gap is more problematic for the IT organization than the business end, as it is simply more difficult to turn the IT person on to the business rather than the businessperson on to IT applications.

He characterized a good IT department today as a broker of services and infrastructure. And information technology has evolved to levels where they are no longer responsible or to blame for the success and failures of a company. Organizations today are also choosing to outsource more often, or are turning to service or application providers, Grant said.

“Information technology is increasingly becoming the infrastructure provider, but the applications are coming from many sources,” he added.

Given the choice today, Grant said he would never go back to being the IT technical person accountable to the business. “If I was the head of IT in an organization I would want to be a senior business executive with the responsibility for IT.” Only in the position of chief information officer (CIO) can an IT professional be an executive first and a techie second, he said.

The full findings of the survey will be available on DMR’s Web site when they have been compiled and completed.

DMR Consulting is at

Ryerson University in Toronto can be reached at