by Elana Varon

Another Rant About Alignment (Or The Lack Thereof)

Dec 14, 20072 mins
IT Leadership

Yet another study finds that executives talk a good game about how important IT is to business operations and future competitiveness, but they aren’t doing much about it.

The latest is a survey of 456 business and technology executives by Diamond Management & Technology Consultants. The results speak (depressingly, alarmingly) for themselves:

  • 80 percent of executives surveyed reported that IT is strategic to their business
  • 83 percent noted that technology is ratcheting up the competitive pressure in their industries.

  • Only 33 percent of respondents said they “totally agree” that the CIO is very involved in developing business strategy.
  • Only 30 percent of business executives and 28 percent of IT executives said they “totally agree” that the person leading strategy development is very involved with integrating business and IT strategy.
Even more mind-boggling, considering how pervasive technology has become:
  • Fewer than half of the respondents forsee that IT will drive major changes to any business function other than the IT department itself.

What’s going on here? This isn’t like those surveys of social attitudes, where people sometimes lie to pollsters because they want to appear open-minded. Is it? Are business execs just trying to sound hip when researchers ask them whether they care about IT, because all the management literature says they should?

There’s also noticeable disconnect between business units and corporate headquarters regarding how much impact IT will have on specific business functions. You guessed it: the corporate suits don’t get it.

This last observation offers the report’s authors, Chris Curran, Diamond’s CTO, and John Sviolka, vice chairman and managing director for innovation and research, a ray of hope: “CIOs who can close those expectation gaps and meet the demand for breakthrough innovations can become heroes whose efforts contribute directly to the bottom line.”

Yet the need for heroics reflects poorly on companies’ ability to innovate and compete. As my colleague Tom Wailgum observed last week, we’re past the point when IT leaders should be complaining about not being aligned.

There’s a recession coming, the economic analysts say. The last time the economy turned south, IT budgets shrank, and CIOs retrenched into operations. I don’t think that’s going to be enough for most companies this time around. Even in companies where operational efficiency is the focus, execs have to understand how their IT investments further their business goals. Whose fault is it that they don’t?