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January 7, 2011

Business should stop dissing IT – it’s getting beyond a joke now

A recent survey has suggested businesses don't appreciate IT as much as they should. Gary Flood looks at the results

By Cbr Rolling Blog

Well, the first week back at ‘school’ after the Xmas/New Year downtime is always a bit of a downer. Sorry to add to your gloom but a piece of research has just crossed the desk that underlines once again how far we IT folk may still have to go before we’re taken seriously.

Specifically, only 7% of IT leaders recently polled by IT recruiters Modis International told the researchers they believe their organisations regard IT as performing an invaluable service.

Plus, the pace of change in IT’s role is also being hindered by perceptions of what it can and should do, with 35% of respondents saying their companies still see IT as mainly being about implementing pre-determined decisions.

That rather low set of expectations is being maintained despite other findings from this same exercise, like the fact over half of respondents – 53% – say that IT is becoming ever more involved in managing major change within their organisations, including devising new supply chain solutions or developing CRM and sales activity to deliver commercial advantages.

Further evidence of the growing strategic role of technology is provided by yet another finding – that 40% of the sample report that forecasting customer behaviour and market changes is also now part of their role, twice the proportion compared to a year ago when this exercise was also run.

The firm says it interviewed 110 heads of IT, CIOs or IT Directors at a range of UK companies of various sizes in different sectors, so the survey has some validity. Indeed, commenting on the results, Jim Albert, the firm’s MD, "Many IT teams still burdened by a belief that they are just there to carry out transactional activity."

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According to the study (State of the IT Market Report 2011), the financial services sector is at the forefront of what it calls more ‘progressive’ views of IT’s contribution but traditional perceptions still persist in many sectors. All in all, it concludes, "The majority of IT leaders say they now take a lead in driving change and delivering commercial benefits, but 9 out of 10 say their internal reputation lags behind their actual contribution."

There does seem something unfair and unequal in the fact that the majority of IT leaders are under pressure to develop transformational changes for their businesses, traditional views of its function are holding us back. Our peers are handing us more responsibility but don’t want us grant us the courtesy of recognising our contribution, it seems.

The research trots out the usual ‘solution’ for this – IT needs to become more customer-focused, commercially-aware, yadda yadda. Possibly.

But I am increasingly minded to start thinking that it’s about time business started doing more about being IT and technology aware and stop being snobs about that proletarian technology stuff. That just about cut it when IT lived in the basement and was tended by geezers in white coats. It just isn’t good enough in the hyper-competitive world of 2011.

Don’t believe me? Go ask the Germans, the Chinese or the Indians. They don’t think reality TV, the City and Stratford upon Avon is all you need to run a Top 5 global economy. And neither should you – or your colleagues.

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