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10/3/2012
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Why Business Doesn't Look To IT For Innovation

Most employees outside of IT don’t call their IT teams very innovative, yet most believe technology is growing in importance, our research shows. Can IT still be the hero?

Remember when the IT department was the group that saved your bacon time and again? Computer crashes that everyone was convinced wiped out precious corporate data turned into miraculous recoveries. Critical applications that suddenly stopped working were just as suddenly revived. Even the ill-conceived, snarky "reply all" email that was deleted before corporate-wide distribution. Windows upgrades, network upgrades, database upgrades, everything upgrades were handled with aplomb.

What happened? We all know that the demands for IT have moved out of Fix It mode and into Innovation. Businesses need a new kind of IT hero. But when we asked 382 business pros--a mix of IT and non-IT people--about how IT is perceived in their companies, we were shocked by what we found in both the responses and the emotional comments that accompanied them.

The data shows a disparity between how IT views its performance (not bad) and how non-IT pros view it (not good). For example, asked if their companies' business users are at least moderately happy with the quality, timeliness, and cost of IT projects, two-thirds of the IT pros who responded to our survey said yes, but just half of non-IT pros said so. Asked if IT is foremost a support or maintenance organization (as opposed to the innovation engine it might want to be), 39% of IT pros agreed, but 54% of non-IT pros agreed. Again and again, the data shows a disturbing gap between IT's perception of itself as reasonably innovative and effective, and non-IT's lukewarm view.

As powerful as the data is, the free-form responses we received--and we got dozens of them--cast an even harsher light.

First, let's hear from the IT side, which had plenty of hero stories to relay.

"We brought 18 divisions (companies) under the same networks, interfacing at all levels from the top to the bottom. Wow, what a hurdle; these were all separate companies that were bought by my company. A major task."

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The data in this article comes from our 2012 IT Perception Survey of 382 business technology professionals.

This report includes all the IT Perception Survey data, including:
  • Comparisons of the 246 IT pros and 136 non-IT responses
  • Insight on IT's role in mobile policy and social strategy
  • Funding plans for innovation
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Answered another: "We recently upgraded all our servers and desktops to virtualization and cloud computing. We needed more available space and were running out of room in our data center and server room. We also wanted a better way to control our storage and have better security. Our team of IT workers worked on this project day and night and weekends to make this project a success in a timely fashion with hardly any downtime or customer complaints."

Yet for every success story from the IT pros who responded to our survey, there were as many cutting comments describing the IT staff--even from IT pros themselves.

"Here, IT is seen as a drag on innovation. The user perception of IT is very low and generally this perception is ignored by senior IT management as not being of importance," said one respondent.

Said another: "Unfortunately, IT in our business is seen as a roadblock--users want to use personal devices, social networks, cloud services, etc.--and we often prevent that entirely or provide poor internal substitutes. We can't ever seem to coordinate upgrades on time. When I tell people what versions of Office, Web browsers, etc., I have to support, it's embarrassing!"

One sentence seems to sum up the scores of comments we received: "We are seen as a slow and bureaucratic organization."

The data puts an exclamation point on that last point: 57% of IT pros consider their organizations to be distributed, agile, and flexible; just 29% of non-IT pros do.

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marc112
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marc112,
User Rank: Apprentice
8/1/2014 | 1:33:41 PM
Considering how much these days businesses rely on internet
Considering  how much these days businesses rely on internet to conduct their activity, IT will play a major role inside any company years from now too. The IT department is the one to smooth things over for the others to do their job without encountering any unpleasant events. They are the ones to know which tools on http://www.trendmicro.com/us/home/products/software/password-manager/index.html to making things easier for everyone.
IT Reformer
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IT Reformer,
User Rank: Apprentice
10/29/2012 | 5:21:52 PM
re: Why Business Doesn't Look To IT For Innovation
This is a very insightful article on the perennial challenges the IT Ecosystem faces with many CIO's chasing "shiny objects" and IT mission owners often feeling dis-serviced by the traditional marketing approaches aimed at CIOs.

Four years ago, a dozen standards bodies, think tanks and universities forged a public/private partnership at the urging of Congress and the White House called the IT Acquisition Advisory Council (IT-AAC). This was driven by recognition the statistics showing 75% failure rates of all major federal IT programs. IT-AAC establishes a true IT honest broker that service the needs of the IT consumer, providing a shared cost knowledge exchange that is fills a huge void in the $3.8Trillion dollar IT market. Though the Federal IT market is often years behind the commercial IT market, this initiative could help them leap frog commercial IT in an effort to avert Sequestration's impact.
mchesmore503
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mchesmore503,
User Rank: Apprentice
10/17/2012 | 6:33:12 PM
re: Why Business Doesn't Look To IT For Innovation
Several points are dead on here. How do you not treat IT as a service organization or support function when SLA stands for Service Level Agreement. In many peopleG«÷s view IT is a service/support function and thatG«÷s where it ends, they are not a partner, the business pays them for a service. Wright or wrong that is the truth in many organizations. Should that change? Maybe.
An area that needs to be addressed, although I do not frequently see it even mentioned in conversations such as this one, is security. Full disclosure, this is my field and discipline by choice. I fully understand that we (security folks) are a major impediment in letting a company operate at the bleeding edge. Believe me; we hear your frustration with us. The problem I see with this article and frankly this way of thinking is that it only takes into account the part of the picture that supports the authorG«÷s point of view. There is no mention of risk management nor the threat to an organization by not performing solid due diligence. What about the risk to the organization as a whole by just running forward with an idea that seems to improve productivity? If you try and inject any measure of risk management or threat assessment/awareness you are branded as a G«£drag on innovationG«• or G«£that bunch that always says noG«•. Fifteen years ago we lived and worked in a different world. Cyber threat was a bunch of kids looking to use your hacked server to share MP3G«÷s. Today the landscape is so dramatically different that you cannot even compare the two. TodayG«÷s cyber threat is well organized, well-funded, with an excellent strategic plan and 1000 times the resources you have to defend against them. The threat today is only interested in separating your organization from every penny they have. Threats have no rules, laws, morals, ethics nor feelings to answer to. They are an extreme model of being focused solely on results. The result comes unfortunately at our organizations cost. Cost not only in real dollars but in losses to productivity and innovation precisely because we have to take such extreme precautions to not become a victim. Of course the business unit sees any type of risk management as an obstacle; we are designed to be just such a thing. Keep in mind that a speed bump slows traffic in both directions equally well. Surely many readers will throw up their hands at this statement and think to themselves, same old security crap, but unfortunately this is the world we live in. Ignoring something does not make it go away. We would all prefer that there were no bad people in the world and that the only risk associated with innovation was a failed attempt at doing something different but that is simply not the case.
While I too am saddened that IT has fallen from our once really fun role as innovators and champions of the latest greatest new IT gadget or thing, after almost 20 years in multiple IT disciplines I have hopefully grown mature enough to look at the whole picture and not just the immediate gratification.

Doublewood
jacoblamm
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jacoblamm,
User Rank: Apprentice
10/12/2012 | 12:33:03 PM
re: Why Business Doesn't Look To IT For Innovation
I suspect that part of the disconnect between IT perceiving itself as an innovator and the Business perceiving IT as an innovator has to do with IT classifying G«£inventionsG«• and G«£improvementsG«• as G«£innovationsG«•. Business has a higher bar G«Ű only those inventions and improvements that end up having a market disruptive effect truly qualify as G«£innovationsG«•.
Jacob Lamm
Mark Montgomery
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Mark Montgomery,
User Rank: Strategist
10/11/2012 | 8:22:57 PM
re: Why Business Doesn't Look To IT For Innovation
Nice work Eric

We've been working at the confluence of IT and organizational management for nearly 20 years now. It's really good to see the industry trade publications placing the topic appropriately at the top of the pile of priorities. Some of the related challenges have been cultural, some structural as in hardware and software architecture in neural networks, some educational and unfortunately some cross the line of unhealthy industry alliances that favor IT managers working for vendors despite being on the paycheck of employers. More than one leading consultant/analyst has stated the latter in public. High turnover rates haven't helped, nor has ignorance of IT on boards and the ad spend of incumbents and related influence- conferences, and everything else in the ecosystem -- paid bloggers, etc., certainly hasn't done anything for those of us working to overcome the problem.

The good news apart from higher visibility as shown in this story is that a combination of basic R&D in the public sector and applied R&D in labs like ours have finally come together with advances in underlying hardware, data standards, education/awareness, and frankly economic necessity to overcome the challenges of sameness in IT, commoditization in the enterprise-but ever rising costs, with an emerging new generation of technologies designed from inception for the network environment--not just for innovation, but also crises prevention, differentiation and continuous improvement. If all goes reasonably well it should not be too far in the future that we see wide adoption of intelligent neural networks that better align interests between individuals and their organizations, including IT teams.
Wisesooth
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Wisesooth,
User Rank: Apprentice
10/10/2012 | 5:09:00 PM
re: Why Business Doesn't Look To IT For Innovation
Customers of IT are results oriented and militantly cherish their freedom from IT restrictions. IT is more process oriented, project by project, to keep the company afloat, agile, reliable, and safe from cyber preditors. IT customers couldn't care less about IT effort; they are concerned about their own effort. They hate being called "users" and other "snarl words." IT customers can buy an app for their home device for a nominal amount. They do not understand or even want to know why IT costs so much and takes forever to deliver.

The only way I know that can heal this disconnect is to involve the user community in the process with hands-on participation. That approach promotes customer "buy in" along with an appreciation of the effort required to manage change, protect the company jewels, and provide the agility to compete successfully in the marketplace.

The IT group needs to work on its image ongoing, not milestone by milestone. IT needs to show people how their work affects the organization's capabilities. Above all else, IT should stop using acronyms and talk to non-IT people in their language. Don't say "gigabit"; say 1000-speed. Don't say the backbone of the network is "xGbps"; say the network hardware talks to the computers and each other at 10,000-speed. Get the general idea?
EricLundquist
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EricLundquist,
User Rank: Apprentice
10/10/2012 | 12:14:24 PM
re: Why Business Doesn't Look To IT For Innovation
Good point. Staffs that labor without notice are not good for the staff or the company. Trying to develop a reward system around projects is a good idea.
EricLundquist
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EricLundquist,
User Rank: Apprentice
10/10/2012 | 12:13:04 PM
re: Why Business Doesn't Look To IT For Innovation
Good note and good luck getting back into the workforce.
EricLundquist
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EricLundquist,
User Rank: Apprentice
10/10/2012 | 12:11:01 PM
re: Why Business Doesn't Look To IT For Innovation
Sounds like you have something to teach those in corporate IT and their managers.
EricLundquist
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EricLundquist,
User Rank: Apprentice
10/10/2012 | 12:10:04 PM
re: Why Business Doesn't Look To IT For Innovation
Interesting. Business becomes more and more tech driven while putting more and more distance between tech and business staffs.
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