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InfoQ Homepage News Could the Solution to IT's Problems be less IT-Business Alignment?

Could the Solution to IT's Problems be less IT-Business Alignment?

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The golden days of IT are over. Everything that could be automated has been, often in a chaotic way, with disparate and ever changing technologies often resulting in total inertia fueled by a prohibitive cost to innovate, adapt and optimize. In a new economy where personalization and niche markets are the norm, Susan Cram, an industry expert on IT, reports:

IT's bureaucratic governance process rivals the tax code in complexity and inhibits rather than promotes innovation.

One global Fortune 200 CIO describes leading IT as "a sucking vortex."

...No doubt the current operating model is ripe for an overhaul. Unfortunately, we’re stuck with it for the foreseeable future.

The never ending debate about the role, the relevance or the organization of IT has added yet another frustration moment. Susan claims to have found 8 things we hate about IT.

not the people, of course, but the crazy system that results in the IT paradox of spending too much to create too little, too late.

So here they are:

1. IT Limits Managers' Authority. You bring in 10% of the company's revenue but can't authorize a $100,000 project if it requires IT.

2. They're Missing Adult Supervision.  IT "relationship managers" [don't] have the breadth of expertise to truly act as a trusted IT advisor to senior business executives.

3. They're Financial Extortionists. Emergenc[ies] in IT (e.g. Y2K, SOX, HIPAA) ... require a zillion dollars...

4. Their Projects Never End. In-process projects are always 90% done. 

5. The Help Desk is Helpless

6. They Let Outsourcers Run Amok

7. IT is Stocked with Out-of-Date Geeks

8. IT Never Has Good News. No matter how much you spend and how hard you work

The core of the problem seems to be well summarized by one of the executive she interviewed:

In the quest of getting things organized, they are introducing a bunch of bureaucracy and, in the process, they're abdicating their responsibility for making sure the right things get done.

For the most part readers agree, Vaidya Nathan responds:

I appreciate the frankness and candor and there is lot of merit in what you say

Tim Gray, a reader on the business side believes that:

My sense is that until some of Ray Kurzweil's singularity stuff starts to happen in the next 10 - 15 years complexity is going to keep growing faster than our ability to manage it...What if this is as good as it gets?

Susan wrote a follow up to her initial post about "The 8 Reasons you Should Love IT" where she argues:

It delivers complex IT services to a relatively unsophisticated and demanding “customer” who expects IT to serve their individual needs without regard for the benefit and risks to the enterprise.

Building around that customer creates all kinds of negative effects. It depletes cash, perpetuates information silos, fragments processes.

She recommends "Avoiding the  alignment IT Trap".

The alignment trap is the situation that companies that find themselves in when they try to improve IT performance through increased IT and business alignment and the IT performance actually gets worse: the harder they try, the worse it gets. IT should enable business growth and performance, but in the alignment trap, IT is more of a barrier than an enabler. Everything about IT seems to cost too much and takes too long.

In a seminal paper published last year, Rudy Puryear's research demonstrated

Against Common wisdom, roadmap to IT-enabled growth begins with effectiveness. We have found that the first move for companies needs to be to get more effective and then get more aligned in order to avoid the alignment trap.

The doubt about IT and its ability to support the business strategy is mounting, worse, decades-old F500 companies and industry leaders are failing because their IT organization could not respond to competitive pressures, could not provide enough visibility, did not have the appropriate security measures or simply because some of their business rules could not catch unhealthy transactions. The recent acceleration of the vendors consolidation is reminiscent of what happened to the mainframe business in the 80s. Could it be the signal of the end of an era? Where does the solution lie? Methodology, Architecture, Technologies, Organization? Based on some of the current (frustrating) discussions our industry is focusing on, we could easily conclude that all bets are off. 

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