IT leaders are out of sync with the enterprise’s new priorities

A November study by the Society for Information Management, its annual IT Trends Survey, polled nearly 600 IT leaders, and turned up a lot of interesting trends. But the big message embedded in all the stats is this: IT management is out of sync with the new priorities for the enterprise.

If you are interested on a barrage of stats about IT trends, look as the summary report (actually a slide deck). You can learn that 65% of CIOs are hired from outside the company (is that a good thing?), that an increasing amount of money is being spent on things (hardware, cloud computing, etc.) and  less on staff (that should accelerate I bet),  how CIOs spend their time and who they report to (yawn), and the trend away from centralized IT staff to a more distributed/hybrid model (that will probably accelerate, too).

One thing I pulled from the deck to set the stage for the misalignment discussion is this slide, showing what IT is spending its efforts on:

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Collaboration tools, by which I bet they mean work management tools (social business, task management, etc.), fell in 2013 from 4th last year to 12th. So they either have conquered that beast, and it’s humming along, or they are potentially inderinvesting in something critical. Perhaps the mobile apps area includes some ‘collaboration’ elements, too. Not absolutely clear, but it seems that big data (from 10 to 5 in one year), might be sucking up all the oxygen in the room.

Here’s the survey’s findings about the organization’s IT concerns. You can see management is concerned that IT may not be in alignment with business needs, and that agility, productivity and cost reductions are 2, 3, 4  and 5 on the list. Number 6 is time to market and velocity of change. Corporate leadership wants a lean and fast moving sompany, and needs an IT organization in step with that, and capable of delivering new services and tools more quickly.

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But when compared with IT leadership’s concerns we see a huge disconnect.

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As you can see, IT leaders are preoccupied with operational and technical issues that corporate leaders don’t think are critical, and show a disregard for the new imperatives for business in today’s shifting economic climate. Only 1, 2, and 6 of enterprise leadership’s IT concerns are in IT leadership’s top 10 list. Productivity, and both business and IT cost reductions aren’t there at all.

Stepping back, it looks like IT management is spending too much energy contemplating its own concerns — hiring, continuity, prioritization, security — that enterprise leadership expects to be handled as a matter of course. And it also appears that IT is not devoting its attention and resources to solving the pressing needs of business: becoming leaner and more agile.

I have no easy prescription for this, but I would say it certainly makes a case for increasing the trend toward a distributed IT organization, where functional and geographic elements of the corporation should have more latitude in managing their own solutions, especially when more are managed cloud applications. Even integration of apps is moving to the cloud, so at some point we can envision nearly the totality of enterprise software in the cloud, and a near zero IT organization.

Even if that seems too radical, I would argue that an interim arrangement might subordinate the IT organization to someone that is not a CIO, but instead a leader charged with getting the company IT in line with business objectives and exploiting digital resources to the extent possible to meet them. The Chief Digital Officer, with a number of IT directors (and others) working under that approach (see The Chief Digital Officer is likely to own social, and ITLeading digital (and social) change in the business, and The shadow CIO) seems like a likely response, especially given the growing impatience of today’s CEOs.