April 16, 2009
When Thoreau said "the mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation," he could easily have been talking about IT leaders. At least that's the way it seems based on a good bit of our InformationWeek Analytics research. I've been sifting through our data looking for trends in preparation for a presentation I'll be giving at Microsoft TechEd in May. The recurring theme that brought Thoreau to mind is that IT pros don't think they have the guidance or support from business leaders to effectively do their jobs. And yet despite not having that guidance, on we plod, making a valiant attempt to run systems we hope serve the needs of businesses.
Nowhere did this sentiment show up more clearly than in a report created with our colleagues at IntelligentEnterprise.com. We asked IT pros to rank 10 items that might contribute to improving their job productivity. Surprisingly, additional financial support and staff ranked last on the list. The top four responses were:
>> Better guidance from business leaders on the most important processes, measures, and metrics
>> A clearer sense of corporate strategy from top executives
>> Better vetting and pilot testing of prospective technologies
>> More support from top execs to implement policies and procedures company-wide
How's that for quiet desperation? Not only do business leaders and top execs fail to communicate their priorities, they also don't provide IT with the support it needs when rolling out new policies.
What makes these findings even more troubling is that they come from a report about information management, business intelligence, and enterprise applications. It would be understandable if we'd been surveying router jockeys and found that they didn't feel particularly linked with business leaders, but the respondents to this poll were the ones running the business decision-support systems.
See our business intelligence report:
Attitudes And Imperatives: Intelligent Enterprise Reader Priorities Survey 2009
While it stinks that IT is the Rodney Dangerfield of the business world, that attitude may actually be self-induced. In a separate survey, we asked a more general IT audience what's expected of them. The vast majority--89%--said job one is keeping the network and servers running. Increasing revenue and finding new business opportunities were dead last on that list, 37% and 32%, respectively.
There's nothing mystical about the solution to this dilemma. IT leaders hungry to be involved in the success of the business have to believe in the role they can play and demonstrate the contributions they can make.
Particularly for IT leadership, the other missing piece of the equation is spending time with your line-of-business counterparts. And by this I don't mean spending an afternoon in accounting or walking through the manufacturing floor. Spend a week or two actually helping with the work they do. Help create a sales presentation or learn how to build a widget. In the process, you'll learn how IT can truly help the business.
Art Wittmann is director of InformationWeek Analytics. Write to him at [email protected].
To find out more about Art Wittmann, please visit his page.
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