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Editor's Letter: Applications Help Drive Business and IT Alignment

Applications bring IT and business together.

If there could be only one thing that aligned IT and the business, it would be applications. They are the engine of almost any business process, enabling and empowering today's knowledge economy. The challenge for CIOs, of course, is choosing the right mix of technologies to easily capture, store, roll up, automate and secure information and process. Get these right, and you don't hear much about it; get these wrong, and you never stop hearing complaints.

Our special report on application development this month has at its core a key finding: that app dev was the most-cited strategic IT priority for CIO Decisions readers in 2007, according to a subscriber survey. That's likely because it's intrinsic to all three areas on the CIO's agenda -- cutting cost, increasing revenue and managing risk.

When we dug into this finding a little more, we learned that:

  • "Application development" chiefly meant writing applications in-house or integrating existing applications, and Web services were involved almost half the time;
  • The top three reasons for making app dev a priority were modernizing existing applications, computerizing manual processes and increasing the importance of e-commerce to the business;
  • The types of applications most frequently cited were Web/intranet/e-commerce, industry-specific applications (such as those for retail, health care, manufacturing, etc.), and those related to order management or business processes;
  • The number of projects on tap for 2007 ranged from two to 30, with the average being 10.4 and the median being six.

If these responses show the why and the what of development, our report, "The Best of Both Worlds," delves into how these applications are being built. As the headline implies, it's typically a combination of buying and building out from a core package, of blending pieces of applications in what's become known as a mashup. Restricting development to those core pieces or functions that provide truly strategic capabilities to the business is the way midmarket IT shops optimize both resources and their contribution to the business. Now that's alignment.

Anne McCrory is editorial director of CIO Decisions and the CIO Decisions conference. Write to her at amccrory@ciodecisions.com.

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