Tactical, yes. Strategic, not so much.

A recent Forrester Research survey found that IT decision-makers at both small and medium companies think that their IT shops are best at supporting tactical efforts (e.g. improving efficiency). However, when it comes to innovation and other strategic contributions, the IT teams fall short.

Unfortunately, even though the IT groups are best at tactical efforts, they're still not perceived as being great. In fact, only 38% of the 500+ executives interviewed gave their IT departments a “great” score with another 46% giving out a “somewhat good” score. Another point of interest, IT Executives gave themselves better scores than non-IT Executives. Not too surprising I suppose. Bias is only human.

The research proposes that IT's failure at providing strategic benefits stems from no one asking IT for such help. I obviously have no proof to counter that argument, but I have a different opinion. First off, I believe many IT groups are simply too busy to “think”. If they're always trying to finish a project that was due last week, they won't have time to dwell on bigger picture issues. The second reason is that I believe that whenever IT is asked for input on strategic issues, they botch the job. The technical folks get so bogged down in the details of how they're going to do something or perhaps fail to be open to trying new things that might seem illogical that they dampen everyone else's efforts.

Are there ways to remedy this situation? Yes. That same Forrester report suggests the following rather simple ideas:

  • Create shared metrics to bring IT and non-IT execs together to help close the gap in perceived performance levels.
  • Make an effort to get involved in strategic initiatives. First off, find ways to lighten the load on IT staff so that they have time to work on non-maintenance, non-operational activities.
  • Learn to speak the language of the business units you work with. Focus on the benefits and skip the technical stuff unless someone asks.
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