Why Businesses Say IT Is Not Very Innovative

Those of you who read my blogs know I write often about the human aspects of IT project failures and the lack of open discussion between technologists and their business colleagues.  Well, here comes some more evidence.

Information Week published an article entitled “Heroes Wanted,”  which is about the unfortunate lack of technological innovation at a time of great business need.  In this well-researched article which is based on responses from both IT and non-It people, we learn even more about the disturbing lack of synchronicity between the need for and delivery of technology.  Data collected showed a ‘disparity between how IT views its performance (not bad) and how non-IT pros view it (not good).’

What did they learn specifically?

IT Project Cost and Delivery Not Meeting Expectations:  2/3 (a low number in and of itself) of IT providers thought users were happy with quality, timeliness and cost, but just half of the business managers surveyed agreed.  Furthermore, more than half of the business managers still believed IT is still primarily a support or maintenance organization.  “Again and again, the data shows a disturbing gap between IT’s perception of itself as reasonably innovative and effective and non-IT’s lukewarm view.”

IT and the Business Look at the Same Situation Differently:   for every success story reported in the survey by IT, ‘there were as many cutting comments describing the IT staff — even from IT pros themselves.’  That is, despite seemingly heroic efforts by IT and no customer complaints, IT is still not seen as cutting the muster for business innovation purposes.  Indeed, IT is viewed as being a drag on innovation.  “The user perception is very low and generally this perception is ignored [italics mine] by senior IT management as not being of importance.”  How can the IT function be so cavalier about disregarding survey after survey that business needs are not being met?  This is clearly one reason businesses turn to outside providers and pray the cloud answers all their questions and why there’s constant pressure on IT to reduce its costs.

Where Does the Tension Lie?  While there’s little debate that IT is critical and that everyone acknowledges technology is of growing importance, it’s difficult to find the cause of the different views, though here are some thoughts:

  1. IT has done such a great job cutting costs, the achievement can ‘run counter to the concept of implementing new technology to drive innovation.’
  2. By making IT more cost efficient, it can ‘result in devaluing IT as the source of those efficiencies do not flow back to most organizations.’  So lots of effort by IT not matched to the business benefit.
  3. While businesses talk about revenue and market share, IT is stuck describing how it reduced costs — not at all what excites wise shareholders.
  4. IT projects often don’t demonstrate direct business benefit.  For the business to really appreciate the work IT does, ‘discretionary spending has to be evaluated just like you look at other discretionary resources, like capital.’  (For the number one book on this subject, see George Westerman’s The Real Business of IT:  How CIOs Create and Communicate Value.)
  5. Technologists don’t view themselves as decison-makers!  The survey revealed that though nearly 85% of businesses want IT to be decision-makers and help with decisions, only 2/3 of IT agreed.  I don’t have an answer as to why IT would pass up an opportunity to participate in an activity that would raise their profile among the business.  Perhaps technologists are more comfortable around infrastructure and purely technical choices.  Maybe they don’t want to subject themselves to the risk of being wrong when in the sights of their business partners.

The only response to improving IT performance and its stature in the eyes of the business is to ‘work closely with business executives to develop innovative applications.’  While this is statement is neither startling nor new, it’s what’s needed on a consistent basis to educate businesses about IT’s essential value in business innovation and growth.  IT must participate daily to face doubters and demonstrate how technology-driven opportunities can lead to market success.

 

 

 

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Comments

  1. to marshal its itivoannon efforts based on their sheer, market-moving and customer creating mass, Tata Group plays a more subtle game networking their itivoannon into the fabric of the organization over all.

    • Frank Faeth says:

      Hi,

      That sounds like a good way to encourage ongoing innovation and get everyone into the game.

      Regards,
      Frank

  2. Today, innovation is about much more than new products. It is about reinventing business processes and building entirely new markets that meet untapped customer needs. Most important, as the Internet and globalization widen the pool of new ideas, it’s about selecting and executing the right ideas and bringing them to market in record time.

    • Frank Faeth says:

      Adriana,

      Very well said — I agree. Innovation comes in many shapes and sizes. Not to jump on the band wagon, but I think the full use of big data will result in lots of innovation at the intersection of the company and its interaction with customers.

      Regards,
      Frank

  3. Management innovation is not visibly a speedy process. Management is taken for granted and generally innovation is attributed to technical systems only. The focus is on the perceived needs of customers who may expect better quality product at reasonable cost and even expeditious servicing. As I perceive, notwithstanding the qualifications earned at business schools, a gulf exists between being nomenclatured as ‘manager’ and effectively performing the managerial role.

    • Frank Faeth says:

      Octavio,

      Innovation can come from anywhere. Businesses that remain open to that fact can do great things and inspire their people to think big and enjoy the excitement that comes with invention and wondering. Business schools are getting better at teaching innovation.

      Regards,
      Frank

  4. IT and the Business Look at the Same Situation Differently: for every success story reported in the survey by IT, ‘there were as many cutting comments describing the IT staff — even from IT pros themselves.’ That is, despite seemingly heroic efforts by IT and no customer complaints, IT is still not seen as cutting the muster for business innovation purposes. Indeed, IT is viewed as being a drag on innovation. “The user perception is very low and generally this perception is ignored [italics mine] by senior IT management as not being of importance.” How can the IT function be so cavalier about disregarding survey after survey that business needs are not being met? This is clearly one reason businesses turn to outside providers and pray the cloud answers all their questions and why there’s constant pressure on IT to reduce its costs.

  5. IT and the Business Look at the Same Situation Differently: for every success story reported in the survey by IT, ‘there were as many cutting comments describing the IT staff — even from IT pros themselves.’ That is, despite seemingly heroic efforts by IT and no customer complaints, IT is still not seen as cutting the muster for business innovation purposes. Indeed, IT is viewed as being a drag on innovation. “The user perception is very low and generally this perception is ignored [italics mine] by senior IT management as not being of importance.” How can the IT function be so cavalier about disregarding survey after survey that business needs are not being met? This is clearly one reason businesses turn to outside providers and pray the cloud answers all their questions and why there’s constant pressure on IT to reduce its costs.

  6. Today, innovation is about much more than new products. It is about reinventing business processes and building entirely new markets that meet untapped customer needs. Most important, as the Internet and globalization widen the pool of new ideas, it’s about selecting and executing the right ideas and bringing them to market in record time.

  7. The economy and competition top the list of challenges that US family businesses say face them now and in the future. They know that business as usual won’t suffice if they are to maintain — and grow — market share despite these challenges. To differentiate themselves, family firms will need to create new products and services, improve current offerings, and find new ways of engaging with customers — or even adopt an entirely new business model. Innovative leaders and a strong talent base will be essential to achieving these goals, which may be why innovation and talent also rank among the top challenges family businesses flagged in our survey.

  8. The second quantitative study explores the linkages among leadership, culture and innovation in Australian enterprises. Most outstanding of all perhaps is that the result suggests that Karpin’s 1995 recommendations, such as a more diverse workforce and higher levels of formal qualification, were being achieved earlier than was expected. The reason? Massive competition and growth.

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