Executives Complain That IT Is Broken and Can’t Keep Up
June 12, 2006 Timothy Prickett Morgan
The Business Performance Management Forum, a three-year-old organization dedicated to the elusive task of measuring the performance of businesses and helping them to improve themselves, and webMethods, a provider of business integration software, last week released a study that basically said that the IT organizations of the world are broken and they can’t keep up with the changes that modern businesses require to chase new opportunities.
To many ears in the IT organizations of the world, which have been under pressure to do more with less for five relentless years, this may sound like an awful lot of finger pointing. It could be easily argued that business managers, after four decades of consuming information technology, still do not understand how to work within the confines of existing information processing systems, and managers change their minds too much about what is and is not a good opportunity. See? Blame is easy.
In any event, BPM Forum and webMethods have done a survey of 320 business executives–meaning, those who do not understand IT the way you do–and put together a study called “Accelerate How You Differentiate: The Alert Enterprise Audit.” In sum, the study says that people need relevant, real-time business insight and information, the ability to change business processes quickly, and for IT systems to cope with that change.
“Executives in our study were consistent in their need to better grapple with business change,” says David Mitchell, president and chief executive officer at webMethods. “Specifically, they recognize that the increasing pace of change requires a new model that allows them to more readily transform operational insight into better business performance. The other key finding is that IT–despite current challenges–is viewed as critical to achieving this goal. What’s clear from these executives’ responses is that the more business-focused and outcome-oriented IT organization will ultimately thrive as a ‘game changer’ in this new environment.”
The executives polled said they wanted to be able to build applications more quickly, improve their business processes, and get better information. Only one-third of the companies polled said that they were happy with the way they could react to change, and among companies with $500 million or more in sales, that dropped to one-quarter of respondents. Only 30 percent of those surveyed said they had access to real-time “insight into operations and business processes,” and we could debate for a long time what that might mean. These same execs said that changing customer preferences, regulations, competition, and new business were forcing them to have to rejigger their business processes and to therefore redesign their applications, and they said further that 40 percent of all core business processes need “some kind of IT fix.” Among larger companies, 60 percent reported that their “core processes are broken and in need of IT repair.”
Despite bashing IT, these business managers haven’t lost their minds. Two-thirds of those polled said that IT is a key differentiator, and among the larger companies polled, more than three quarters affirmed IT’s key role. Still, 45 percent of those polled said that their IT organization cannot keep up with needed changes. Most of these executives believe that moving to a service oriented architecture (SOA) for their applications will help make it better. Maybe it will, and maybe this will be yet another layer of cruft that a hopeful IT and management staff puts onto their legacy applications to be more flexible.