The priority that persists

The more things change, the more they stay the same. New research shows that an old problem is still the top concern for senior technology execs.

For the past 15 years, top enterprise managers have made aligning business and technology their top priority. According

to survey results released Tuesday, that hasn't changed.

Nearly 300 senior IT management officials, including CEOs and CIOs, once again listed alignment as their top priority in a survey commissioned by the Chicago-based Society for Information Management.

"You'd think by now somebody would have addressed it," said Jerry W. Luftman, professor at the Stevens Institute of Technology and co-author of the report. "My thought is the reason no one has is simple: Everyone is looking for that one silver bullet. It takes a combination of things."

Following IT-business alignment, the top concerns of executives include IT strategic planning and security and privacy, according to the survey.

"Those don't come as any surprise," Luftman said. "The fourth was surprising. Organizations are concerned about attracting, developing and retaining IT professionals."

Despite the slow economy, organizations seem to feel a turnaround is imminent and that trained IT professionals will soon be a valuable resource, Luftman added.

Yet the overriding concern, as it has been for years, is alignment. According to Luftman, there are six things that companies look to when it comes to aligning business processes and IT: communication; governance, or how decisions are made; value demonstration, such as portfolios and options; partnerships with other organizations; technology or new applications; and the people who work within the organization. Over the years, the focus has switched among these elements. Currently, everyone is talking about value, Luftman said.

Business intelligence topped the list of major applications and technologies that companies are looking to invest in, according to the survey. Infrastructure, enterprise application integration, Web services and knowledge management round out the top five.

"I was surprised there wasn't more focus on CRM and supply chain management," Luftman said. "It sounds like they're trying to do some important clean-up before getting into the intricacies of CRM and SCM."

Additionally, the survey and the research done by Luftman and co-leader Ephraim R. McLean, a researcher at Georgia State University, identified several enablers for guiding alignment: IT's understanding the firm's business environment, maintaining a loose partnership between IT and business, establishing senior executive support for IT, and linking IT plans to business plans.

Addressing all these problems requires an approach that encompasses all these factors at once and is ongoing, Luftman said.

FOR MORE INFORMATION:

Expert: Pose a question to David Bashford on IT-business alignment issues

White paper: The alignment effect: How to get real business value out of technology

Best Web Links: Research, market projections, trends

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