Companies have to remain competitive, but the recent years of prosperity have made this less of a driving need in many industries. Most organisations think they can outperform their rivals, and many believe that their approach to IT can play a significant part in this. There is a link between the performance and capabilities of the IT function and overall business performance, but not everybody is aware of this, or takes advantage of it. Companies that believe they are growing have a more mature attitude to IT
Not only do growing companies tend to view IT investment as strategic to the business, IT management is also far more acutely aware of what other parts of the business think about the IT function. Where there are problems with the internal perception of the IT function, the IT managers in growing companies are far more likely to be trying to address them. New technology should be viewed optimistically, but not with rose-tinted glasses
Those taking a strategic approach to IT investment view new technology as an opportunity that can have a positive impact on the business and add value. Many, in organisations that have been around for some time, tend to have become more cynical; some view implementing new technology as extra work, but those in young and maturing businesses still have an interest in the technology, although they must guard against investing in things simply because they are new and innovative and keep an eye on business value. Bringing in external experts can improve overall business performance without spiralling costs
Working with 3rd parties who provide industry knowledge and understanding helps businesses grow faster and improve efficiency and reduce costs. They look in those 3rd parties for specific industry knowledge, depth of expertise and reputation in order to build relationships, rather than just finding cheap suppliers to dump everything on. Too many IT projects run over time and budget or fail to meet their intended scope
Those companies that do not believe they are keeping up with their peers have the worst records, with one in three admitting that fewer than 30% of their projects are completed on time. While budgets and time are precious resources, missing project scope will be noticed by those outside the IT department too, and does nothing to enhance the IT function’s reputation. In difficult economic times the return on investment timescales shorten
While young and maturing companies will still accept that it takes longer to get a financial return, those companies with a growth mentality take a tight grip on the reins, with almost two in three of them expecting a return on IT investment in only six months. Few companies formally measure the impact of IT projects, and some do not measure it at all
While there appears an internal belief that IT is having a positive impact in many areas of the business, fewer than half of all companies have any process at all for measuring the success of IT projects. Despite this, many are keen on looking at the linkage between IT capability and business performance, so they will need to start planning how and what they must measure.
Even during a recession, companies can not only survive, but thrive. To do this, the IT function must stick close to the business, be involved in the broader strategy and plans, and measurably demonstrate the success of IT investments in terms and language that the wider organisation understands and appreciates. Even before doing this, the IT function has to control its budgets and resources, and recognise that where expertise is available from 3rd parties, it should be exploited as part of mutually beneficial partnerships. This should not only ensure that costs are manageable, but that suitable returns in terms of overall business performance and individual employee productivity are realised.