If there’s one industry where one can get away with opinioned claims without providing evidence and facts, it is the IT industry. “Businesses are under pressure to improve the way their business functions” How big is that pressure? “IT departments are struggling to meet the needs of their businesses” How big of an issue is that across the board? “Businesses are starting to by-pass IT on purpose, adopting Software as a Service” How often?
Being active as a software platform vendor in the Business Process Management and Platform as a Service space, we wanted to get a more precise view on the challenges that our customers are facing. We were particularly interested in the perception of these challenges through the eyes of both business and IT decision makers. Therefore, we commissioned Vanson Bourne, a UK headquartered research firm to conduct a survey across 650 business and IT leaders from across North-West Europe.
If you’re interested in the short answer to those three questions in my opening paragraph:
- Almost every business interviewed indicated that they are operating under increased pressure, with 96% of business decision-makers reporting that they have business priorities for 2012 that have become a greater focus as a result of the current economic and competitive environment. This is having a significant impact on the demands of business decision-makers and the resources and infrastructure available to them; 92% of those business decision makers require improvements to the way their business functions.
- Both business and IT decision-makers do not think the standard of IT that is currently delivered is adequate. More than seven in ten (72%) business decision-makers believe that their IT is NOT enabling their business priorities for 2012. Four in five (80%) IT decision-makers admit that their IT does not perform well in supporting or delivering certain functions key to an efficient, competitive business.
- Where business departments feel that IT is not meeting their needs, there are those who are using the availability of cloud services to bypass their IT department, further complicating IT’s task of managing business processes and business use of IT. Almost a quarter (23%) of business decision-makers in organisations using cloud, are doing so to bypass their IT department. Nearly six in ten (56%) IT decision-makers believe a part of their business has already adopted a cloud-based solution and bypassed the IT department.
You may be shocked by these findings, or this may confirm what you already thought, but what we have often described as a widening gap between business and IT is confirmed by these pretty telling figures.
Something really struck me when I was analyzing the research details and finding the correlations between responses together with the experts from Vanson Bourne. Despite the immense pressure on IT to keep up with the pace of change that the business requires, the responses from the IT leaders that were interviewed show a very classical approach to the challenge, despite their ambition to step up.
Around 50% of the respondents indicate that process improvement is achieved through building processes into existing applications and systems. More than 40% of IT decision makers state that their processes are mapped out in Powerpoint and Visio.
Business decision makers are expecting IT to offer greater levels of agility and flexibility so that they can better deal with changing market circumstances. IT acknowledges that there is a challenge on their end to make that happen, but frankly the ambition of the business isn’t matched by the maturity of the adopted technology solutions. This is defined as the Ambition / Maturity Gap.
Let me introduce an analogy here, as a way of starting to address the Ambition / Maturity gap. Like in cars, where the gearbox plays a crucial role in utilizing the power from the engine at different speeds and more importantly when the speed changes, we need that kind of gearbox in IT as well to cope with various levels of demand for business change.
Translated to IT language, we need a decoupling layer that allows us to leverage the IT assets that are already there and do a perfect job to handle core transactions. However we should not expect that those transaction backbones are capable of dealing with the pace of change that is required right now. There are actually other applications that may serve evolving needs better than those backbones, and it’s not fair, or effective to put a square peg in a round hole, forcing the backbone to do things that it was never intended for.
Modern software platforms are acting as such a decoupling layer, being able to leverage data and logic from existing systems, connect best of breed fit-for-purpose applications to those backbones and orchestrate processes and operations across systems and business stakeholders independent of organizational boundaries.
We’ve seen great examples of leading globally operating companies, breaking away from the traditional IT model by adopting such a platform to drive business transformation.
What we actually saw in the survey, was a remarkable difference between performance of IT organizations who have adopted such a platform and the ones taking a more traditional approach, in terms of better alignment between business and IT (83% vs 61%) and how IT is of help for the business (53% vs. 31%).
If you’re interested in the full survey findings you can download a copy of the Vanson Bourne report on this page.
Let me know what strikes you from this survey. I am interested in your view on how to break away from the traditional IT model and how you address the ambition-maturity gap.