What can IT do to bridge the chasm with the business?

The steps that can bring inhouse IT back in from the cold...

IT departments have a number of options to combat the perception that they are no more than non-strategic suppliers of technical services, says Clive Longbottom.

Organisations have been making small but valuable datacentre investments, which have resulted in more responsive, highly-available technology for the businesses, according to two cycles of global research by Quocirca in 2011.

However, the research shows that the chasm between IT departments and the businesses they serve is not decreasing much.

In the first cycle of the research, carried out in February 2011, 14 per cent of respondents said there was little alignment between IT and the business. That figure only dropped to 11 per cent by the second cycle of research in November 2011.

A further 27 per cent - only slightly changed from 26 per cent - said the business dictated strategic needs without involving IT management in the decision-making process.

In just 11 per cent of organisations had IT managed to embed itself using business-focused dashboards to provide visibility into how technology helps the business, positioning IT as a strategic partner.

Graph: Two cycles of research show the changing perceptions of the IT department

Two cycles of research show only minor changes in perceptions of the IT departmentImage: Quocirca

In many cases, it seems as if IT departments are treated almost like external suppliers. They are viewed similarly to an already outsourced group who are told what they should do after the business has made a strategic decision.

If this chasm is not addressed, it could be the one thing that has the greatest impact on the future of the corporate datacentre. If IT is seen as a non-strategic supplier of technical services, then it may as well be outsourced completely, with the datacentre resources procured from the cloud.

A decision to outsource IT completely - strategy, implementation and running - will be bad for all involved. Once the total IT provision is outsourced, the capability to make strategic business and IT decisions is compromised, unless the company being outsourced to is capable of ensuring that it does what the internal IT department failed to do.

That the business never placed sufficient pressure on the internal function points to a likelihood that it will see the new external function as purely a supplier - and so IT continues to be perceived as a commodity with little perceived added strategic value .

The internal IT department will suffer, because little is required from it now that everything is outsourced. And the outsourcing company will also suffer in the longer term because...