Gartner: Bad Economy Hindering IT/Business Alignment

The sour economy and tight budgets are crippling IT and business alignment efforts, according to a new Gartner report.


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Posted February 26, 2003

Sharon Gaudin

The sour economy and tight budgets are crippling IT and business alignment efforts, according to a Gartner consultant.

A new Gartner study shows that 65% of companies have either a negative or a neutral view of IT's ability to team up with business managers to further corporate goals, according to Jamie McCleary, a consultant with People3, the consulting arm of Gartner Inc.

McCleary says it's not an issue where executives just don't get it. Companies understand the need for the two departments to work together -- IT managers and business managers putting their heads together to push projects, expansions and profits. They just haven't been able to make it happen.

And the sluggish economy and uncertain business climate are major contributors to that.

''Many companies have lost the ability to have a vision,'' says McCleary. ''Theyre in survival mode, and they just can't see beyond that... There's a much greater awareness today of the need for IT/business alignment than there was two years ago, without a doubt. But they still don't see it as being mission critical at the end of the day.''

CFOs and CEOs simply are hesitant to expend the little budget money they have on creating a better IT/business alignment. The alignment generally doesn't come naturally. The IT department is almost always located on a different floor or at least a different end of the corridor from the men and women in suits. Business executives are considered the bean counters. IT folks are considered the geeks.

It's not a natural meeting of the minds.

And McCleary says to make the alignment work is going to take a little expenditure.

IT managers on down to low-level techies need to expand their skills beyond the technical. Being able to keep the network running and the hackers at bay are no longer the only skills they need. Today, the optimum IT worker needs to understand the overall business process and needs to be able to speak less geek and be more fluent in marketing, product development and customer service.

And that probably will take some specific training, according to McCleary. Classes in management, basic business rules and leadership are called for. And they don't always come cheap.

McCleary says companies also need to change their hiring requirements when it comes to the IT department. They need to look for competencies in communication, team work and business understanding.

''If I'm dealing with an IT person, he or she needs to understand my issues and provide feedback to help me figure out my project,'' he adds. ''They should be a partner with the goals I'm trying to achieve... IT needs to become business partners, leveraging business initiatives. They need to be a value add.''

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