Taking care of business

How IT departments are still struggling to align themselves to business needs.

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By  Eliot Beer Published  August 13, 2007

Making IT deliver business benefits is now something of a cliche - there is not a single enterprise-level vendor anywhere in the world that will not emphasise the returns that a particular product or service will bring.

But while it is easy to offer platitudes about IT systems' abilities to deliver measurable return on investment, actually delivering it is infinitely harder. Unfortunately, the nature of business benefits - and of the complex projects which are supposed to deliver them - mean that easily-defined and generated metrics are not readily to hand.

Recent research conducted by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) on behalf of HP attempts to bridge the gulf of misunderstanding between IT and business, and give an insight into some of the drivers and views held by large enterprises about their IT projects.

The global survey questioned 1125 IT professionals in companies with an annual turnover of more than US$250 million, with 550 from EMEA - including 25 from the UAE, the only Middle Eastern country represented in the survey. The participants were interviewed by phone.

The main focus for the EIU survey was how the speed and quality of IT delivery affects the business, and the results were interesting - and not always clear cut in favour of IT as a business driver.

When asked if they agreed with the statement: "My company would experience a substantial increase in profitability from the faster delivery of IT services and projects," 60% of the EMEA participants said yes, with more than a third (37%) saying no. While a clear majority do see speedy IT delivery as an important part of their business strategy, for a significant percentage of respondents to register dissent suggests that IT is not necessarily the profit-driving tool that is painted by vendors.

This perception becomes even clearer as the report goes on. When asked: "Approximately what percentage of IT initiatives under-taken in your company over the past three years has had the intended positive business outcomes (a positive impact on your company's business)?" 52% of EMEA respondents - slightly less than the global figure - said half or less of IT projects delivered on their promises. Worse, fully one quarter of respondents said 10% or less of their projects lived up to original projected outcomes.

Late project delivery is an interesting source of comparison between the various regions. While the global figures reveal that more than three-quarters of the respondents' organisations delivered 75% or more of their projects on time, figures for the Americas and the UAE differed widely - but not in the direction casual observers might assume.

While the Americas figures suggested project delivery was substantially worse in the continent, the 25 UAE respondents all claimed to deliver at least 75% of their projects on time - 64% of respondents said only 10% of their projects were late.

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