Short-term view limits rewards of IT strategy

Von Michael Crawford

Companies today still pay only lip service to IT strategy, focusing instead on cost cutting, senior IDC analyst Peter Hind said last week.

Accusing business of having a "90-day view", Hind queried the point of big, bold, multi-million dollar investments if the focus is short term.

Painting a dour picture of the current IT landscape, he challenged business to align IT services with a long-term business strategy instead of being preoccupied with immediate, bottom-line improvements.

IT professionals, Hind said, are constrained by the need to cut operational expenditure - a task made easier because business does not know where it should be, or would like to be in the future.

Speaking at the IDC Discovery "05 conference in Sydney, Hind said as long as business only pays lip service to the challenge of strategy, the improvements IT can bring to an organization will be limited.

"Information services is based on a business which is focused on the now, and sees business as a 90-day thing - business is not looking at where it will be in three to four years; this is challenging in IT because IT never ever rewards the impatient," Hind said.

"CIOs tell me that if the business is thinking short-term, then so do they.

"You are not doing yourself any favors by putting together big, bold, strategic projects, which require multimillion-dollar investments, in such a climate." In this scenario, a CIO cannot even put forward a sound business case for large, strategic investments, because it is not politically savvy.

Hind said the state of the market for a CIO in Australia today is like a Clint Eastwood movie - good, bad and ugly.

"The economy is good, the short-term business focus is bad creating an environment of daily challenges for the CIO that is ugly," he said.

On a brighter note, he said the "work" Rodney Adler did at HIH has ramped up demand for document management applications.

Hind cited a survey which found document management penetration in 2001 was only 30 percent compared to 60 percent in 2005.

Giving the Clint Eastwood movie theme a reprise, Hind said, "The good part for CIOs is that the economy is growing, investor funds are coming into business and that cash means potential; at least businesses are giving lip service towards thinking of IT in strategic terms," he said.

"The bad is the short-term focus in business - information services managers know what IT can do, but are forced to deal with short-term business requirements. This forces IT staff to think of IT largely as a tool for operational efficiency.

"And the ugly is CIOs dealing with business people whose expectations are high and perhaps don"t understand the effort and energy required on their part to make these investments work. They still think - despite evidence to the contrary - that IT can be some miraculous silver bullet that transforms an organization, and that [attitude] really makes it hard."