IT Still (Mostly) Clueless about Users

Attitudes toward the value of technology vary greatly between IT managers and the employees using that technology.
Posted September 23, 2009
By

Larry Marion


The gap should be narrowing between what your IT bosses think about the value of technology and what users think, given the decades of discussions about the topic. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. In fact, the pressure of the Great Recession and globalization may be making the gap bigger.

The Victims of IT (as Dilbert would describe users) and the CIOs, CFOs and other senior executives who authorize technology purchases have sharply divergent views on the timeliness, effectiveness, and innovativeness of the hardware, software and services you provide, according to a new survey.

A few months ago, 343 respondents to a survey of managers by BusinessWeek Research Services provided some stark contrasts in their views on the business value of IT. Roughly half of the respondents were C-level, VPs or directors who were involved in technology purchases, while the other half had similar titles but were not involved in IT purchases.

While 83% of the IT final approvers think they are helping the business respond to change in a timely and effective manner, barely half of the IT Victims agree (see the chart):

it managment

In a sense, criticizing IT for not being flexible, effective or providing value commensurate with cost is an old story. Remember the jokes from 10 years ago that business processes are encased in concrete when an ERP system is installed?

While the general complaints about IT cost versus value and inflexibility may not have changed, the business environment has placed new expectations on IT.

The recession and the rise of easy to use and game-changing consumer technologies (YouTube, Facebook, iPhone, etc.) has widened the gap between what the IT Victims expect and what the suits authorizing the spending think you and they are delivering. The survey results show a huge gulf between the two groups when it comes to the need for IT to be innovative and create new business opportunities.

The chart below shows that while there is a substantial gap between IT Victims and IT decision makers when it comes to the perception of value, the gap is much larger when they’re asked about innovation and creating new opportunities.

it managment

These two attributes – innovation and creating new opportunities-- should be viewed as the new benchmarks of IT value. Your job as an IT professional is not just to crunch code and bulletproof the data center from hackers and power failures. You need to be on the lookout for ways to help your company increase revenues or net income.

Thinking and selling your innovative uses of IT to the suits requires more than just a casual glance at your company’s annual report, or eavesdropping during a conversation among sales types in the company cafeteria. You have to think strategically about IT.

Dan Rasmus, author of the new book, Listening to the Future, a former Forrester analyst and currently director of business insights at Microsoft, offers eight ways to achieve more strategic IT. Here are a few worth pondering:

1. Tie IT investment to competitive differentiation

2. Create a learning environment

3. Think about the business implications of systems

Will IT and users ever see eye to eye on the value of technology? Comment below.




Tags: Facebook, services, Microsoft, iPhone, IT management


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