When I linked to McKinsey's fourth annual survey on IT spending and strategy earlier this week, it was in a post focused on the former topic. Like others, McKinsey found that many IT chiefs plan to focus on further cutting costs through efficiency improvements over the next 12 to 18 months. At the same time, a growing number are considering targeted investments in new projects.
While the spending insights were interesting, I was really grabbed by the respondents' answers on strategy, which can be found on the fifth and last page of the article. (Free registration is required.) In a nutshell, it looks as if many IT executives worry that IT isn't up to snuff in working closely with the business to achieve overall corporate goals. (Yes, it's that old angst over lack of IT/business alignment again.)
The biggest percentage of respondents, 47 percent, say business strategy is created first and used to guide IT strategy. Eighteen percent say business strategy is developed with some input from IT. Sixteen percent say business and IT strategies are tightly integrated and influence each other. Disappointingly, 19 percent say business and IT strategies are not linked at all.
Oddly enough (or not so oddly, given CIOs' predilection for self-examination), business leaders appear to have a higher opinion of IT than their IT counterparts. McKinsey notes "IT executives' dissatisfaction with their job performance could eventually lead to deeper problems in morale and performance."
Clear and effective communication by both IT and business executives will be critical to ensure that the IT organization continues to understand how integral its efforts are to the success of the enterprise.
IT leaders may feel this way because of the nature of their jobs, which as Advance Consulting's Doug Brockway wrote in a guest opinion for IT Business Edge, involve lots of quick changes to keep up with changing business needs. He said:
More than any other function in business, IT leaders need to optimize on multiple dimensions for multiple stakeholders. The constituencies vary in their needs for IT to present a high-growth-company profile or a low-growth-company profile. In IT terms, one portion of the business may need to frantically add new function and another needs to control costs and hunker down.
And, as Brockway pointed out, the CIO role carries a lot of expectations because it touches every area of the business. He wrote:
... This forces CIOs to display a greater degree of resilience and optionality than other functional executives who are torn between appreciation for IT's contributions and resentment at being obliged to accept them. And there's nothing for it. Who knew that the "technician's" job would, managerially, be the most complex?