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12/12/2012
02:31 PM
Chris Murphy
Chris Murphy
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6 Ways IT Still Fails The Business

IT leaders should prepare their teams to avoid these mistakes in 2013.

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The harsh truth is that everyone remembers IT's mistakes more than its victories. So in that spirit, we're looking back on some of the problems we've written about in 2012 in hopes of purging those demons in the year ahead.

Sure, IT teams are doing a lot of things right. Cloud is a great example -- IT teams are increasingly not just open-minded to cloud software and infrastructure options, they're also starting to become the lead advocates for it. And a lot of everyday victories are things that never happen: systems that stay up. But every good IT leader has a spirit of constructive dissatisfaction, looking for ways to get better and test new boundaries.

So here's a list of six ways IT is still failing the business, with survey data and examples to back up why we see these risks.

1. IT Is Still Underestimating Mobile's Impact

Only 53% of IT teams are very or extremely involved in creating a mobility policy for their company, including bring-your-own-device, according to our InformationWeek IT Perception survey. This response is identical for IT and non-IT respondents, one of the rare areas they're in agreement.

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That means almost half of IT shops are sitting out -- or are cut out -- of the mobile discussion. IT leaders need to insert themselves in this conversation. They need to help companies make the most out of mobile devices, not just help manage them. Too often, IT has been caught napping in the mobile revolution.

First, too many IT shops missed the iPhone revolution by initially fighting their use by employees rather than seeing the potential and rolling up their sleeves to solve security problems. Then -- fool me twice -- they missed the iPad revolution, with too many seeing it, at best, a "niche-y" gadget. In 2010, almost 70% doubted that even 10% of employees would get tablets; in our just-completed InformationWeek Outlook 2013 survey, it's down to half. Our survey finds that 35% of companies have mobile device management software on their project lists for the coming year, but only 26% are creating mobile apps for customers, and a mere 18% are creating mobile apps for employees.

chart: IT Projects For 2013

Too many IT shops got caught like this forward-looking IT operation that nevertheless didn't move fast enough on tablets for the sales team: "Mobile computing has been a key component of our IT strategy for several years. We've delivered on initial focus areas, building mobile applications for customers and enabling employee personal mobile device access to company email. Our mistake was in not anticipating the dramatic surge in popularity of the iPad commensurate with the release of the iPad 2. Sales force demand to leverage company-liable tablets rose suddenly, requiring us to be uncustomarily reactive. IT quickly bridged the gap, setting policy and implementing mobile device management, which enabled the company to mitigate financial impacts. However, we're still working to regain the full confidence of our sales executives."

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CentralScrutinizer01
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CentralScrutinizer01,
User Rank: Apprentice
1/25/2013 | 2:39:42 PM
re: 6 Ways IT Still Fails The Business
To humberger972, Amen brother. And I've seen it where, even when IT is involved from the beginning, all other departments get all the time they need to get comfortable with their part and then turn over to IT. Then IT gets 2 weeks to do 2 months of work.
humberger972
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humberger972,
User Rank: Apprentice
1/18/2013 | 6:07:29 PM
re: 6 Ways IT Still Fails The Business
I've seen this so many times. Business has been working on a project for a year, then they give it to IT and they are meant to put it together in a month.... shouldn't it have been business's responsibility to bring IT in from the beginning? They think we take to long, because from their point of view the project is a year old, but IT only found out about their piece last week.....

OR funding goes to the businesses, or the business starts using drop box, or some other product - since they can buy what they want, and auditors come in and have a cow, send it to legal and business is given a talking to, next thing you know it is all back in IT. Because business is ok with complaining that IT always says no to stuff, but they are scared of audit/Legal. The business groups drive to the bottom line, and what is easiest. IT drives to what is legal, and supportable long term -- and the two clash, and they should.

The failure is with the C list executives who can't keep the balance between the natural clash of priorites between departments. It is up to the C list to find creative solutions to the tensions, and find points of opportunities in the clash.
TanK203
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TanK203,
User Rank: Apprentice
1/4/2013 | 4:31:43 PM
re: 6 Ways IT Still Fails The Business
I saw this article a few days ago and I have been steaming about it for a few days now. I am quite disgusted with this article and how it portrays IT. I believe you are wrong on every point you have made, starting with your opening remarks about how one of the things IT is doing right is "Cloud".
Just because you use dropbox at home and are amazed at how easily you can access these files from any computer doesn't mean that it is right for all businesses. You'll notice in the survey you took, the most important IT project for 2013 is data security. What you fail to understand is that IT's First responsibility is data security and integrity. Use of cloud services in many cases forces IT departments to literally give up that security and put it in the hands of a cloud service provider. The problem is that you sit here and complain that you can't use a service like dropbox for your work data but you do not realize the reasons as to why.
What you need to understand is that IT's responsibility is not to give their users every single toy and fun new feature that is released, IT's responsibility is to maintain data security and integrity. Things like mobile devices, cloud services, remote access, BYOD all are security risks. IT departments need to weigh the risks and decide on how to react to these changes, but again security and integrity are paramount. If that means you can't use your new iphone on the company wireless, then that's what it means.
IT departments are generally under-staffed, under-budgeted, and under-appreciated yet we still maintain the infrastructure needed for our users to access the data they need to. Are their sometimes better solutions available? yes, but that does not mean that IT should jump on the bandwagon. Instead of pointing the finger at IT and yelling foul because you can't use a popular cloud service that would theoretically make your life easier if you could use it at work, instead investigate as to why IT has not implemented that new feature or toy you want. I believe you would be surprised as to just how complicated and/or difficult it can be to implement.
My suggestion, start your research for this article over, but this time, spend your time with your IT department and find out from them why these bad perceptions and road-blocks exist.
dwwright99
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dwwright99,
User Rank: Apprentice
1/2/2013 | 7:06:01 PM
re: 6 Ways IT Still Fails The Business
Maybe it is time (actually, has been for a long time) that "IT" is no longer positioned as being separate from the "business". We are all in the same business, making our organizations successful. What an organization needs is clear priority on what it wants to accomplish, and to organize its resources to do it. The problem is the continued use of the top-down org chart ; certainly you should acquire and support resources in like groups, but then cross-chart teaming of resources is needed to actually do something.

This is hard, the org chart continues to haunt us. ...but consider a military example. Armed forces are the essence of hierarchy in organizing resources, but when they are actually fighting, the concept of combined arms is critical; different types of resources fighting together. If the military can do this, why can't civilian organizations do it? I state that the best ones are, and pulling away from the rest.
Brian_Dickson
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Brian_Dickson,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/31/2012 | 1:07:16 PM
re: 6 Ways IT Still Fails The Business
An eye-catching title! IT is always too slow, or to be put another way, is never fast enough in the eyes of the areas they support. I agree that it's all about perceptions; The business thinks IT is slow and IT thinks their business partners don't provide accurate requirements or maintain realistic expectations...it's the classic scenario, similar to those faced in other business support functions like marketing.

I see a plethora of articles that speak to all the known issues between IT and the business, such as lacking trust or perceptions, but I rarely see anyone speak as to the "how" to address them.

From my experience this is where excellent product and project management come into play, to set realistic expectations on what is possible and to ensure that the critical path is clearly identified and managed. Common ground in reporting is critical; IT reports on technical status can be meaningless to the business, so IT Leaders should spend some time understanding what is meaningful to the business and best sets those expectations and subsequently build a higher level of trust.

For more on setting expectations and other related articles, see http://wp.me/p2WJhb-1f

Brian K Dickson
Terry Bennett
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Terry Bennett,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/27/2012 | 11:32:20 PM
re: 6 Ways IT Still Fails The Business
Very good article, Chris. If we could point to the root cause of these failures, what would it be?

It seems that in far too many companies, IT is used as a cost-cutting engine, and IT's capability of generating revenue or of providing a competitive advantage are pushed to the back. When that occurs, innovation suffers, IT is siloed, and companies seem to be competing more on costs than anything else.

Is it possible that the root cause is that too often we in IT have focused either on the technology itself or on internal operations rather than on the overall business and the end customer?

What do you think?
Sacalpha1
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Sacalpha1,
User Rank: Strategist
12/20/2012 | 5:18:51 AM
re: 6 Ways IT Still Fails The Business
I would love to finally see some insightful articles that stop bashing IT and give some practical advice on how to better serve and partner with the business. This article defines only the what, which is quite obvious, and none of the how. Using one of the 6 main points of the article, how about flipping some of this around and discuss how if Marketing is to partner with IT it needs documented and executable processes, needs to admit to process and systems integration issues, needs to stop throwing darts at the wall and have analytics based marketing campaigns, should have marketing plans laid out in advance so there is lead time to deliver technology required, and needs to ask for a realistic number of initiatives (considering overall company demand) that are business case justified and tracked. More often than not, Marketing will request 50 projects with a few weeks to months lead time and then when IT does not deliver it is not flexible enough or quick enough. It's a fundamentally ridiculous request and if any other business function was asked to deliver this in support of Marketing, other than IT, there would not even be any questions. Marketing's request would be dismissed as knee jerk management without thought and would be summarily rejected by pick your function - Finance, HR, Manufacturing, etc. I think its time to turn the discussion to what changes and improvements are required in the various business functions to maximize the value of IT across the company. Sure, the IT org will have to make some changes, but a large number of changes and a high degree of maturity will be required by the other functions......so let's start to get that message out there instead of hopping on the beat up IT pile!
ChrisMurphy
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ChrisMurphy,
User Rank: Author
12/17/2012 | 5:07:01 PM
re: 6 Ways IT Still Fails The Business
Financial services are a good example for those in IT who fear that this shift of IT spending toward line of business leaders. Financial services is high on the list of best-paying industries in our IT salary survey; we see leaders who are in charge of IT and operations, since IT is inseparable from what the business does. IT organizations and titles will change, but the importance of information technology and the people who know how to apply it to running a business will only grow.
KBurger
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KBurger,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/14/2012 | 3:19:28 PM
re: 6 Ways IT Still Fails The Business
I don't see this as a new trend -- LOB execs have played a key role in driving IT investments in financial services for some time now -- but it definitely is accelerating, especially as you say around the CMO/customer engagement function. And I agree that cloud is part of the mix -- that's part of the thinking behind the 2013 I&T Executive Summit theme of "Smarter, Closer, Faster: The 3 Keys to Competitive Advantage".
David Berlind
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David Berlind,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/14/2012 | 1:35:10 PM
re: 6 Ways IT Still Fails The Business
One of the trends we keep hearing about is how a lot of IT spending is going to shift away from IT to line of business leaders. The oft discussed example lives at the intersection of online, social (customer engagement), profiling, and cloud: the CMO. As more business get savvy about how to do mo' betta with the Internet and more data regarding customers and potential customers becomes available through those interactions, the responsibility of mining that resource to the benefit of the company is rapidly becoming the CMO's responsibility. Cloud plays a role in the mix in that the CMO and/or other line of business executives can more easily acquire solutions that stand up tot these and other challenges with minimal involvement from IT. However, when LOB execs due this absent of involvement from IT and other constituents, they run a greater risk of having problems down the line as the systems they pick need to align or integrate with choices being made elsewhere in the company.
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