Corporate to IT: transform us, but don't spend too much money doing it

Everyone wants to become digital dynamos, but aren't lending much support to the people charged with making it happen.

These days, it seems as if every organization on the planet is anxious to undergo a "digital transformation" -- to move from their creaky, manual, disconnected operations to a sleek, frictionless online entities. However, nobody seems to want to pay for it, or even lend a whole lot of support to the people charged with making digital things happen.

Photo: CERN Press Office

That's the takeaway from a new survey of 200 IT managers, released as part of the Business Performance Innovation (BPI) Network's "Transform to Better Perform" knowledge-transfer initiative, and underwritten by Dimension Data.

The results show significant gaps between the desire of corporate leaders to accelerate business transformation through technology, and their companies' true commitment and capacity to actually make it happen. If anything, most IT professionals around the world give their companies failing or near-failing grades on their ability to implement transformation technologies and drive IT innovation to gain competitive advantage.

For starters, there's a serious lack of skills that are impeding technology progress in enterprises. BPI Network study finds that IT organizations currently suffer from major shortages of skilled professionals in the very areas that businesses most want to accelerate development and innovation.

Many of those running networks, data centers and back-end systems say lack of planning, insufficient funding, and a paucity of communications and collaboration with the business side make renovation of IT infrastructure a challenge.

Only 35 percent of respondents rate their company's ability to adapt to new transformative technologies as :good" or "very good." Over 70 percent of IT professionals report they have not even begun or are just "getting started" on the road to IT transformation. Just 15 percent have a clear and detailed plan for transformation. More than 80 percent say their plans provide only general direction, need updating, or don't exist at all.

Both business executives and IT professionals say their companies' top desires are for faster deployment of new applications and customer experiences, as well as more strategic contributions from IT. Firefighting keeps IT teams too busy to get strategic, however. More than 80 percent of frontline IT workers say they spend more than half of their time troubleshooting and maintaining legacy systems -- instead of driving innovation. Close to one-fifth calculate they spend 90 percent of their time on routine maintenance tasks.

Communication is also lacking. Almost 45 percent said improved collaboration between IT groups and business leaders is critically needed -- but only 18 percent said there are active cross-functional teams in their companies today. Another 14 percent said they rarely speak with business managers or speak only out of necessity.

IT workers say their biggest weaknesses are long-term planning, application development, data analytics and software engineering.

Among other complaints from the IT team are that business managers wait too long to bring them into the process (52 percent), don't provide sufficient funding and resources to get the job done (48 percent), and then change job requirements before work can be completed (46 percent). IT professionals also say "they are frequently not viewed as trusted partners in the innovation process," the BPI report suggests. In fact, more than half of respondents indicate that "business leaders have a negative impression of the IT department."

If effective transformation is to happen, this all needs to change. Corporate management needs to unleash the innovation and creative potential their IT professionals can offer.