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Business technology strategy: Where's the beef?

Research shows there may be some disconnects in how corporations are executing their business technology strategy.

I may be dating myself by reaching back to the iconic Wendy's commercial to make a point about business technology strategies, but thankfully, the hamburger icon has been updated for today's Generation Y audience.

Scot PetersenScot Petersen,
editorial director

The big question, "Where's the beef?" has multiple connotations here. New research by the Corporate Executive Board shows that "93% of IT business partners find IT strategic planning necessary, but most [77%] remain disappointed with the results." The beefs/complaints range from "minimal or no alignment with … business objectives" to "tactical [focus] rather than strategic" and an "overemphasis on technologies rather than business … value."

Executive Board analysts have written a few articles for us on IT transformation, and I find their research compelling, which makes their new findings all the more worrisome. We have been trying to hammer home strategic best practices for some time now, and our own research shows CIOs are indeed spending a good deal of their time on strategy and value. But it appears there is some disconnect and frustration when it comes to executing strategy.

CIOs spend a good deal of their time on strategy and value. But there is some disconnect and frustration when it comes to executing strategy.

What are some possible reasons behind this?

It's the CIO's fault: One scenario is that CIOs, or their equivalent, have not completely bought into the idea of the CIO being a business leader. As contributor Harvey Koeppel -- a former CIO himself -- said, CIOs should be transitioning from being "manager of the IT cost center to business-savvy CIO." However, many IT executives are probably saying, "Yes, that is the ideal, but I'm still working day to day in the real world and, therefore, can only be so strategic."

It's the CEO's fault: On the other hand, assuming CIOs have their proverbial seat at the table, perhaps they do not yet have a voice and are not being heard by corporate leadership. Many CEOs, in my opinion, are not that interested in technology, other than their smartphone, tablet, or what they saw in Forbes. They may be trusting their CIOs with the details, but a real strategic vision for corporate IT must come from the top.

It's the economy, stupid: There are bigger issues than just whether CIOs want to create effective business technology strategy or not. Forces such as mobility, consumerization, cloud computing and social networking are moving so fast that carefully thought-out plans may actually cause companies to lose ground to their competitors. This is a legitimate concern. However, technology investments should be made like any investment: plan for the long term, stay diversified, balance risks with safe bets. Over time, this is what will pay off.

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How well does your company plan and execute business technology strategy?