Canadian IT departments must communicate their value to business managers

A majority of business decision makers in Canada say they trust their IT personnel, according to a recent survey.

But IT departments here must intensify efforts to communicate their value to the organization, the survey author says.

This second installment of the IT Business-Harris/Decima survey of Canadian business professionals examines the relationship between IT and business organizations – two disparate but interdependent groups in the corporate environment.

Some 385 business executives were asked about their reliance on and opinions of in-house IT professionals, their perception of how IT is aligned with business objectives and their influence over technology budgets and purchases.

The survey found that nearly 74 per cent of business professionals in large, medium and small organizations say they trust and rely on the expertise of their IT organization.

But a deeper analysis of results show a “disconcerting development,” said Lise Dellazizzo, vice-president of Harris/Decima in Toronto.

A total of 36 per cent of those surveyed in small businesses, 75 per cent of those in medium-sized firms and 68 per cent from large companies say they consult their company’s IT professionals in an effort to stay informed and educated about technology that affects their business.

Overall, only 52 per cent of respondents say they go to their IT professionals to obtain technology information.

Similarly 51 per cent of respondents say they use online resources, 49 per cent read print publications and consult business peers and 43 per cent relied on technology vendors to learn about IT.

“I was pretty surprised by the results. I thought more respondents would express confidence in their own IT professionals. After all, they are the subject-matter experts in their field,” said Dellazizzo. “IT professionals should work harder in making business executives realize the value that IT departments bring to the organization,” she added.

Dellazizzo said it was understandable that executives from small businesses (firms with less than 100 employees) would less often consult an in-house IT professional since in many cases these organizations are not big enough to employ an in-house IT department.

Survey results show that more than 34 per cent of small businesses, in fact, say they do not employ an internal IT organization.

However, medium-sized companies (firms with between 100 and 499 employees) and large enterprises (companies with more than 500 employees) with budgets for larger IT teams should have had more reasons to leverage their IT talents, Dellazizzo said.

Dellazizzo admitted she was a “little bit worried” that larger companies did not show “more explicit signs of trust” in their IT organizations.

Overall, only 37 per cent of the respondents say they “trust and rely” on the expertise of their IT staff, while another 37 per cent say they “modestly trust” their IT organization.

The survey also revealed that, while 56 per cent of the respondents say they believe business and IT organizations agree on the importance of IT to the company, only 14 per cent say that their business and IT organizations are aligned in their thinking regarding the importance and value of IT.

“It is very likely that IT departments are not communicating their value to the company or are simply getting a bad rap,” Dellazizzo said.

Dellazizzo cited an example where it is often typical for IT departments to get the blame when a software product exhibits flaws or when a technology-based project gets behind schedule. But the good work of IT department often goes unrecognized.

She also pointed to a possible corporate cultural divide. “While C-level executives may be in constant communication with IT managers, to the rest of the office IT is a separate world.”

One Toronto-based IT professional suggested that his peers should learn the language that business executives speak, particularly when trying to sell a project.

“You need to quantify and justify every penny you are asking for a project,” said Cameron McKay, systems administrator for McKesson Canada, a healthcare product and service provider.

He said IT managers should address the top four concerns of business executives: “A project has to improve productivity, generate revenue, reduce cost or mitigate risk.”

IT personnel should also brush up on their business knowledge, communication and time management skills, McKay said.

There may be an “IT-business department disconnect” but the gap is gradually closing, he said.

The Harris/Decima – ITBusiness survey revealed one bright spot for IT departments.

IT departments appear to be gaining greater influence over technology purchases and budgets.

Only 11 per cent of respondents from large businesses, one per cent of those from medium-sized companies and 10 per cent from small firms say that lines of business “entirely determined IT budgets.”

Overall, more than 20 per cent of the respondents say their lines of business personnel had “no influence on IT budgets.”

“It’s great to see that IT now has a much greater input in determining technology purchases. It will be interesting to find out if these figures will rise further in the near future,” said Dellazizzo.

Comment: [email protected]

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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