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Survey: IT struggles with business alignment

Challenges remain before vision of IT / business integration can be realised, according to Red Hat survey

Survey: IT struggles with business alignment
Congdon: The results clearly show the need for IT executives to have a broad understanding of their organisation

While CIOs have made significant progress in coordinating IT departments with business units, there are still obstacles to achieving IT and business integration, according to a new survey commissioned by Red Hat.

The survey, conducted by IDG Research Services, polled 100 respondents at the IT director level and above about the current and future roles of CIOs.

According to the results, many CIOs and IT executives spend much of their time "keeping the lights on", with 48% of respondents saying that improving IT operations and system performance was one of their top five areas of focus. Meanwhile, 47% identified implementing new systems and architectures as a top area of focus.

Despite these day-to-day demands, many CIOs also engage in a number of business activities, with 45% of respondents claiming to spend time aligning IT initiatives with business goals.

According to the survey, IT executives want to spend more time contributing to business strategies. When asked where they would like to spend more time in the next three to five years, 48% said that they would like to identify opportunities for competitive differentiation. Additionally, 42% said they wanted to cultivate the IT/business partnership, 41% said they wanted to drive business innovation, and 35% said they wanted to align IT initiatives with business goals.

The survey also indicated the IT executives consider themselves as valuable contributors to business strategies. Among the respondents, 78% rated their knowledge of the business as either excellent or good, and 66% said their receptiveness to new ideas coming from business units was excellent or good.

Despite this, many respondents felt stymied by factors outside their control. When asked if they had budget to support and enable new business ideas, 57% said their budget was only fair or poor, and 62% said the same about their staffing levels.

The survey also noted issues around businesses' perception that IT can be a contributor to business strategy. When asked to describe how their companies' business stakeholders viewed IT, only 10% of respondents said they were perceived to be business peers. Even fewer business stakeholders (4%) were thought to perceive IT as a business game changer that serves as the primary driver of the enterprise's competitive future.

Meanwhile, 30% of respondents said that business stakeholders still consider the IT department to be merely a cost centre.

"IT is a source of key business innovation, and it is the responsibility of IT executives to communicate the strategic value of that innovation," said Lee Congdon, CIO, Red Hat.

"The survey results clearly show the need for IT executives to have a broad understanding of their organisation, and to increase the collaboration between IT and business leaders. It is through this collaborative innovation that not only perceptions will change, but also business results will be driven."

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