APAC CIOs, biz leaders have 'disconnected' priorities

IT leaders prioritize using technology within budget constraints, while business leaders want technology to improve business outcomes--the disalignment could lead to project inefficiencies.
Written by Ellyne Phneah, Contributor
A disconnect exists, as CIOs prioritize using technology for budget delivery performance, while business leaders want IT to empower business outcomes.

SINGAPORE--A disconnect exists between the priorities of Asia-Pacific CIOs versus business leaders, and the disalignment could give rise to inefficiency within the organization, according to industry watchers.

According to Forrester Research, CIOs in the region are facing more budget pressures than in previous years. Citing its survey released on Friday, only 45 percent will raise IT spending, while 21 percent reduce spending.

Consistent with the pressures faced by CIOs, the top two technology initiatives prioritized by IT departments across Asia-Pacific are related to budget. 54 percent cited "improving budget delivery performance" and 52 percent said "improving IT budget performance" as their priorities.

In comparison, business leaders' ranked "data and analytics to improve business outcomes" as their top IT priority for 2013, but that came in third for IT leaders. The top reason business leaders spend more on technology is also because they believe it is more important for the business not to be involved, the report found.

"The disconnect of focus between CIOs and business leaders could bring difficulties and needs to be bridged so that IT can be empowered to move the business further," Dane Anderson, research director and Asia-Pacific manager at Forrester Research noted, speaking at Forrester's Summit for CIOs held here Friday.

DBS Bank: IT, biz disconnect gave rise to inefficiency

Paul Cobban, chief operating officer of technology and operations at DBS bank, who was also speaking at the event, pointed out his organization too, has experienced the disconnect.

Back in 2010 when the CIO and IT department had focused on technology, instead of business delivery, Cobban explained, noting the differing perspective was "immature".

"The IT department was always seen as implementing IT systems and the business people were usually involved at the beginning but left due to disagreements," Cobban said. "This led to projects developed without the focus of the business people."

He noted that this gave rise to inefficiency, whereby 40 percent of projects were delivered on time and only 20 percent of user requests were addressed adequately. This was already better than other companies in Singapore where on average, 31 percent of projects were cancelled, and 45 percent needed rework, he pointed out.

It was only toward the end of 2011 where the company started re-evaluating the projects' processes and realized it had to make changes to  factor in business aspects such as training of employees, defining problems clearly, and developing new ways of measuring key performance index (KPI) to make them more efficient.

For example, smaller projects were created with lesser employees on board in order for more project deadlines to be met, he said, noting each team also started including a business leader to better align IT and business priorities. The teams also started colocating to share ideas which "force conversations on alignment and solving problems", he added. 

These efforts subsequently led to 94 percent of projects being delivered on time in 2012, Cobban pointed out.

That said, trying to align both business and IT leaders is a continuous journey, he pointed out. "You never reach there, you have to keep working at it," Cobban said.

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