Why Setting IT Priorities Is So Important
October 18, 2017 Alex Woodie
During the Great Recession, IT professionals around the world were tasked with greater responsibilities while simultaneously working with lower budgets, a pattern that has since been ingrained as the “new normal” in tech. Now, according to a report from technology solutions provider CDW, that ongoing budget crunch is manifesting itself in new ways as organizations struggle to effectively deal with a host of IT priorities.
In its “Power of Priority” report, CDW surveyed 800 IT decision makers from eight industries to gain a greater understanding of how organizations are prioritizing, strategizing, and executing against their IT goals. It also analyzed who’s involved in the decision-making process and what impact having a formal IT strategy can have on organizational success.
The big takeaway from the report is this: Many IT shops are struggling to plan and execute IT strategies, especially in light of ongoing budget issues. And considering that this struggle can — and does — impact organizations’ bottom line, it’s an issue that deserves more attention than it’s currently getting.
The IT budget is a closely watched barometer that can tell us all sorts of things about an organization and the economy. First off, is the budget rising or falling? Is the organization investing in new technology or just keeping the lights on? And what do budget changes spell for an organization’s confidence in itself and broader markets?
It’s not surprising that IT budgets draw so much scrutiny. It’s one simple figure that can reflect so much more. But over the past eight years, we’ve watched as IT organizations – and in particular the IBM i shops that we track at IT Jungle – have been continually asked to do more with less. The built-in cost efficiency and proven economics of the platform, it seems, gives the bean counters an evergreen justification to squeeze ever harder.
What’s interesting about the CDW report is that it shows us how IT shops are struggling to juggle multiple tasks against the backdrop of budget tightness. While the majority of organizations surveyed by CDW say they expect budgets to go up over the next decade, the increases are for the most part relatively modest (less than 10 percent). And when viewed against the goals that IT shops are expected to achieve, the budget remains a sore point for IT.
So, what are organizations asking their IT professionals to do? Aside from the budget – which always will be one of the top concerns – CDW identified some familiar topics, including managing risks to security and business continuity and improving customer experience. Also bubbling up are the need to help employees adopt new technology and preparing for the future.
(It’s no surprise that security and business continuity are near the top of the list of concerns. Earlier this year, security and high availability ranked as the top two concerns for IBM i shops according to surveys conducted by HelpSystems and Vision Solutions. As the year progressed, massive data breaches and natural disasters likely reinforced the earlier decision to pivot to defense.)
How organizations prioritize their IT ambitions, and who is involved in that prioritizing process, is a source of constant concern. While nearly nine out of 10 organizations take formal steps to define their IT priorities, only 57 percent succeed and are able to “clearly define and execute on their IT priorities,” according to CDW.
Those who do have a strong formalized IT strategy are more likely to report success in key areas, such as increased efficiency, better security, superior productivity, lower costs, and higher customer satisfaction. And conversely, those who lack a formal plan for IT (or at least those who aren’t successful in implementing it) suffer higher costs, lower productivity, lower customer satisfaction, less efficiency, and lower future readiness.
The IT department is increasingly at the crossroads of multiple agendas within organizations. Whereas hardware, software, and IT services were the purview of the CIO or IT director in previous years, today executives from departments like finance, operations, human resources, marketing, and sales have a greater say in an organization’s IT strategy, according to CDW. In fact, 90 percent of survey respondents say the IT department is less involved in IT decision making than it was three years ago.
The culprit, of course, is digital transformation, in all its gory incarnations. Driven largely by consumer technology, organizations are constantly under the gun to deliver a better experience to their customers and employees. Only 13 percent of organizations in CDW’s report say they “have all the technology they need to keep up with evolving customer demands.” This tech gap manifests itself in a dizzying array of shifting priorities: big data, IoT, machine learning, cloud computing, and 3-D printing. (What CDW, no blockchain?!)
When it comes to technology, the wants and needs of an organization will always be at odds with each other, which is not a bad thing. Today’s hot new thing will invariably cool off and become just another legacy product that organizations will grudgingly maintain. The longevity and continued relevance of the IBM i server has long been an exception to that rule, but it too is swimming against considerable currents.
What’s important is not what technology you’re investing in, but how you go about setting your IT priorities. The CDW report shows a clear link between having a formal IT strategy and success across multiple metrics. This is not surprising. After all, it’s hard to achieve something difficult – like successfully leveraging new technology to improve business competitiveness — if you don’t know what the challenge is in the first place.
In any case, the message from CDW is clear: Without a formal plan of attack, IT shops are just spinning their tires.
You can download the CDW report here.