How to fix the disconnect between IT and business

Businesses continue pursuing tech solutions on their own, leaving IT in the dust. Here's why this hurts businesses, and how to fix it.

The benefits low-code platforms can bring to businesses At the 2018 Gartner Symposium, Simon Black of Mendix described the challenges businesses still face when adopting low-code systems.

Coordination between stakeholders who rely on applications and the IT teams that deliver these technologies are crucial to achieving business goals. However, a major disconnect exists between the two parties, reported Mendix. 

Mendix's Digital Disconnect: A Study of Business and IT Alignment in 2019 report found that IT directly delivers value to businesses, but many stakeholders believe that IT does not meet their requests. The report, released on Wednesday, surveyed more than 1,000 IT and business stakeholders who have a hand in deciding their companies' technology strategy. 

SEE: Low-code platforms: An insider's guide (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

Nearly all respondents (95%) agreed that IT involvement in key strategic initiatives adds value to businesses. IT delivers business value in a number of ways, according to respondents, including helping organizations respond faster to change (66%), increasing employee productivity (65%), and identifying opportunities to decrease operational costs (54%). 

However, the road to reaching these benefits is often blocked by disagreements between business and IT. While 50% of IT professionals think IT budgets are insufficient to delivering solutions at scale, some 68% of business respondents don't see any funding challenges. 

Major issues, the report found, centered around budget—particularly the amount of budget directed towards legacy systems and support, as well as technology investments that are inadequate to deliver solutions at scale, difficulty aligning stakeholders, and unrealistic ROI expectations. 

"The study shows that these challenges lead to inflexible processes and a lack of agility in IT, causing request backlogs of six months to two years or more," said Jon Scolamiero, manager of architecture and governance product marketing at Mendix. 

These issues are further reflected in the shared belief (77% of IT and 71% of business) that IT solution requests are consistently being unmet. Some 59% of business stakeholders said that less than half of their requests IT actually implements, leading to an increase in shadow IT—where business leaders pursue a project without any official IT support or knowledge. 

The majority (78%) of both business and IT respondents said that shadow IT activities have increased over the past five years. While business stakeholders view shadow IT activities as a good thing since their IT initiatives are finally being implemented, IT disagrees: 91% of IT decision makers said it is dangerous to build applications without understanding the potential issues. 

Other "key concerns on the IT side are the additional support and maintenance issues shadow IT causes, which exacerbates the amount of budget spent just keeping the lights on," Scolamiero added.

Why the disconnect exists

"CIOs reporting to CFOs indicates a cost-focused approach rather than a strategic focus on the ability of IT to generate value, i.e., revenue," Scolamiero said. "When creative IT departments are particularly anemic it's because, for most 'non-software' businesses, creative IT — custom development, design, and architecture — are considered a risk to avoid and a cost to manage, in spite of the fact that shadow IT is typically used to create custom solutions, or purchase, then customize, commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) solutions."
 
Managing creative IT projects is very difficult, especially for legacy enterprises, which is why businesses typically opt for a software-driven approach instead, Scolamiero added. 

How to bridge the disconnect 

Low-code platforms may mend the gap, the report found. Almost all (99%) of respondents said that their organizations would benefit from low-code platforms, since these applications would follow corporate management, governance, and security policies. 

"Low-code refers to application platforms that add a layer of abstraction to create a visual development environment that enables users to intuitively build applications without writing code," Scolamiero said. "Low-code enables all makers, both those who are technical and less technical digitally to participate in and add value to the process of creating enterprise-grade applications. These platforms can provide key simplifications and guardrails around things such as security, governance, UI/UX, and CICD, to increase the speed to market."

Global insurance provider, Zurich, is an example of a disconnected team that used low-code platforms to manage the disruption. 

"Zurich Insurance, a 146-year-old insurance company, needed to move faster and with more agility for IT to build software solutions that would drive their business initiatives forward and, ultimately, help their customers," Scolamiero said. "They developed a digital transformation strategy that focused on three areas: Innovation, simplification, and customer focus."

The company needed close collaboration between its partners, IT, and business to truly deliver change, which they were able to do through the use of low-code applications, said Darren West, head of IT for Zurich. 

Fixing the disconnect between teams requires a complete change in attitude, which can be facilitated by tools (like low-code development) that appeal to both sides.  

"If the agile movement and DevOps have taught us anything, it is that breaking down silos to bring together the makers needed to get something done, pulling them all together on the same team under the same supervisor, and giving them a clear goal, is the consistent path to success and speed," Scolamiero noted. "Yet as always, vision, direction, and enablement must come from the top. That means some traditional mindsets need to change."

For more, check out The benefits low-code platforms can bring to businesses on TechRepublic.

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