Don't Be A Control Freak

How can CIOs control the end run around IT? They can't -- that's the lesson from a new CIO survey. Live with it, loosen up, and keep track of where IT dollars actually are going.

John Soat, Contributor

April 18, 2008

3 Min Read

How can CIOs control the end run around IT? They can't -- that's the lesson from a new CIO survey. Live with it, loosen up, and keep track of where IT dollars actually are going.A few weeks ago I wrote a feature story for InformationWeek magazine about "The End Run Around IT." It addressed the issue of tech-savvy business managers taking IT projects on themselves and the improbability of CIOs being able to control those outsider projects, especially in light of increasingly popular Web 2.0 technologies like software as a service and application mashups. Instead, CIOs should change their perspective: Embrace the tech-savvy end user and look to leverage business-side IT.

That's also the conclusion of a new survey by Serena Software, a maker of application development and measurement tools. Serena sponsored a survey in February of 100 CIOs in France, Germany, the United Kingdom, and the United States (50 Europe; 50 U.S.), all of them in companies that are growing, or at least their IT budgets are.

Here are some interesting results, and insights, from Serena:

  • 77% say IT is under more pressure to deliver results compared to five years ago; visibility into projects and resource effectiveness is essential to measuring ROI.

    98% of respondents say budgets for IT projects come from business functions as well as those under their direct control, making resource allocation even more complicated, and accurate, timely reporting even more important.

Over the next few years, IT will become more and more decentralized, predicts Jeremy Burton, Serena's CEO. That's because a large and increasing chunk of it is coming out of the business these days. And that makes working with the business side a priority for today's CIO. "The less of a control freak the CIO is, the more the business will want to share with him or her," Burton says. And vice-versa, presumably.

That loosening up already is happening, to a certain extent, according to Serena's survey. Here are the responses to this specific question:

"Which of the following statements best describes your strategy toward minor or unauthorized projects led by others peripheral to IT?"

  1. 1) Stop them, stop them, stop them -- 8% (6% in U.S.)

    2) When they come to light, quietly stop them -- 29% (36% in U.S.)

    3) Allow if visible so team can assess what is happening without committing resources -- 34% (32% in U.S.)

    4) Encourage them but require formal feedback mechanisms -- 24% (18% in U.S.)

    5) The more the better -- 3% (4% in U.S.)

    6) Other -- 2% (4% in U.S.)

OK, so CIOs in the U.S. are still a little more on the control freak side than their European counterparts. But that's the lesson: To keep track of IT-related spending, and therefore the productivity and ROI related to it, CIOs must stay in touch with what's going on on the business side. As the trend toward business-side IT projects increases -- and it will -- CIOs shouldn't buck the trend but embrace it, for the opportunities it offers in terms of testing new applications and new ways of using technology.

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