Realizing the potential of IT

McKinsey has recently released a report titled “IT’s unmet potential: McKinsey Global Survey Results” that shows that there is still a lot of work to do to align IT and business.

The survey attempts to answer the following high-level questions:

  • How IT can serve as a tool to help build competitive advantage
  • What risks arise as competitors use disruptive technology
  • How companies develop their IT strategies
  • What challenges they face in implementing those strategies

A snippet from the report:

Respondents highlight risks they face from information- and technology-based disruptions and the corresponding increase in importance of information and technology capabilities for improving business performance and outperforming competitors. Though improvements have occurred since last year, respondents also underline the need for IT executives to apply these capabilities more effectively in developing and executing business strategies.

CIOs and other senior executives agree that ideally these capabilities should, for example, promote innovation and better enable companies to seize new opportunities. Still, they continue to see a gulf between these aspirations and the value that IT currently delivers.

That last paragraph jibes pretty well with my experiences.  Organizations have a lot of good ideas but fully realizing those ideas has been tough.

A few of the results:

  • Nearly two-thirds of respondents say their organizations are at risk from information- and technology-based disruption.
  • The survey found aspirations for IT are substantially unmet: respondents see a large gulf between their IT organization’s current priorities and what IT could contribute
  • Executives view IT as largely effective in the delivery of basic services, companies still are struggling to get IT to go further
  • Executives in both IT and non-IT roles largely agree on a short list of steps to improve the IT performance gaps cited above. Over 40 percent of respondents favor improving the talent of IT staff and increasing the accountability of business units for implementing IT initiatives

There is some good stuff here, especially that last bullet point.  Perhaps 2009 and beyond will see organizations focus on building their IT staff’s talent and capabilities.  Sounds like organizations are finally realizing that IT Staff can be a competitive advantage.

Want to know my suggestion for realizing the potential for IT?

  • Reduce the bureaucracy – this will remove barriers to ‘getting things done’.
  • Get closer to your customer – this will allow the business and IT to better understand the wants/needs of the business and help to better align both ‘sides’
  • Hug your IT staff – This gives your IT staff the feedback that what they do is important and is the first step in removing the IT Turnover culture found throughout the world.

Just my two cents worth.  Jump over and read the entire McKinsey survey for more info.

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Scot Herrick
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I think there is an important way to improve IT missing from this article: improving the relationship between the business and IT. IT serves the business. Yet, too often, IT thinks they know what the business wants and doesn't engage them; or, IT wants to engage the business and the business doesn't let them or know what information they need to do their job. And you would be surprised at how all this can happen even in large (software) companies where one would think they'd have this process down. Not so much. So I would add that IT needs to… Read more »

Eric D. Brown
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Hi Scot – You are so right.

There is a lot that can be done to build the relationship between IT and the business. Communication and building trust are key.

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