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3/12/2009
02:00 PM
Art Wittmann
Art Wittmann
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Practical Analysis: Survey Finds A Gaping Tech-Awareness Gap

IT leaders must educate their nontechnical peers about how new technologies will benefit the enterprise.

Your business leaders are clueless about one of the most transformative technologies to come down the pike in a generation: virtualization.

Here's how I know: We measured it. InformationWeek Analytics set out to compare how IT leaders and non-IT corporate executives think about certain technologies. We wanted to measure the views of both audiences in two hot areas: next-generation Web applications and virtualization. In the case of Web apps, we got a few minor surprises. But in our survey about virtualization, we were pretty stunned with the feedback.

Before I dive into why that is, here's a little context. The InformationWeek audience is a broad one, and responses to our surveys typically include up to 20% non-IT business management, mostly CXOs and line-of-business managers who are tech literate and want to stay up on tech trends. For this project, we filtered out responses from small companies. We were looking for trends in the enterprise, where IT sometimes generates its own culture--one that can result in a skewed view of what serving the business means.

Because we were polling the InformationWeek audience, we knew that our "business leader" respondents would be technology-aware, so we expected a fairly close alignment with tech leaders in their views on IT matters. In our survey on next-gen Web apps, we found exactly that. Within a few percentage points, business leaders and IT leaders had similar opinions about rich Internet applications. Where they diverged was on the impact of the features now being bundled into Web app delivery systems--namely, business intelligence, event processing, and collaboration capabilities. IT leaders see these capabilities as most beneficial to operations (66%), while business leaders see them as most valuable to marketing (also 66%). It's a rare IT pro who doesn't have some disdain for marketing, perhaps reflected here.

But the big disparity came in our survey results on virtualization. We set ourselves a threshold of 20% responses from business leaders in order to have a valid comparison with IT leaders. But try as we might, we couldn't hit that mark without resorting to tactics that would taint the results. Given the amount of print, Web, and event space that InformationWeek has devoted to virtualization over the past three years, this is shocking.

That a technology as transformative as virtualization is a mystery to business leaders tells us a lot about what IT leaders need to communicate to their colleagues. Clearly, business partners don't need to know the inner workings of virtualization. They need to understand and buy into IT's plans to use the technology to improve flexibility, save energy, improve efficiency and reliability, and overhaul application delivery. Plans for this transformation, along with deliverables and milestones, are the sort of thing that IT needs to share and communicate on an ongoing basis. Business leaders can't be your partner if they don't know what you're up to.

Art Wittmann is director of InformationWeek Analytics, a portfolio of decision-support tools and analyst reports. You can write to him at awittmann@techweb.com.

To find out more about Art Wittmann, please visit his page.

Register to see all reports at InformationWeekAnalytics.com.

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