Dec 19 2008   11:03AM GMT

IT/business alignment? Not so much, but there is a silver lining

Linda Tucci Linda Tucci Profile: Linda Tucci

How’s this for a year-end bummer? According to a survey from McKinsey & Co., IT is not living up to anybody’s expectations. The survey, titled “IT’s Unmet Potential,” found that CIOs, CTOs and non-IT executives all agree there is a disjunction “between their IT organizations’ current priorities and what IT could contribute.”

It seems the old IT/business alignment thing still needs aligning.

The silver lining, if you can call it that, is that this disjunction is actually a step forward. Instead of having IT and the business disagree about IT’s purpose, now at least both groups are on the same page.

Both CIOs and their non-IT executive peers have reached concordance on the idea that IT should play an important role “in developing and executing business strategies” by, for example, promoting innovation to “better enable companies to seize new opportunities.”

The bad news is that what’s on that page is not actually what is going on in these companies.

For example, only one quarter of the respondents believe that IT is currently “partnering with the business to develop new business capabilities.” Similarly, only one quarter believe that IT is “proactively engaging with business leaders on new ideas/enhancements to existing processes, systems.”

The other evidence for this disjunction between what is and what could be is the respondents’ answers to questions about current IT priorities versus ideal IT priorities for the next budget cycle.

For example, “reducing IT costs” and “ensuring compliance with regulations,” according to the survey, should ideally be half as important on the IT priority list as they currently are. On the other hand, the respondents said that in an ideal world,  IT’s role in “creating new products and service” should be almost double in priority.

For the new year, perhaps CIOs and their business peers can take heart in the idea that the first step in solving a problem is defining it.

The survey was conducted in October, after respondents “had time to absorb the implications of … the deteriorating economic environment,” said McKinsey authors; 548 executives responded, 49% of them identified as C-level executives.

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