In our just-published Cutter Benchmark Review article (see “Linking IT Budgeting, Governance, and Value,” Vol., 8, No. 7), Tom Bugnitz and I report that only 27% of managers of large companies believe their IT is superior to that of their competition. (By “large,” we mean companies with more than US $50 million annual spend.) For all companies, regardless of size, only 39% of managers believe that their company’s IT is superior.
Forget about the idea that a manager may not actually know what his or her competitor’s IT is and how it compares. Forget about the problem of separating IT from IT-enabled business and management process — for, of course, that’s what really matters. Forget that this survey did not touch every senior manager in the company, so that the result might be partial. Forget about all that.
Rather, focus on how deadly this whole idea is to the IT community. It’s only a little while since Nicholas Carr so loudly opined that “IT Doesn’t Matter,” and indeed, his comments generated a lot of smoke and fire in the IT community. Yet, here it appears that — at least in competitive terms — there might be something to it.
Admittedly, this Cutter Benchmark Review survey is a limited study, really focused on IT budgeting and financial management issues. However, it does raise a fundamental question for IT managers: how does our IT compare with the competition? And, probably even more important: should our IT be superior to our competition’s?
If IT is to matter to our company, particularly competitively, it would seem that it has to be superior to the competition’s. At least our use of IT in the business — in processes, in the use of information, in the management and control of business activities — should be superior. How else could IT matter?
All this raises challenges to the IT executive. How exactly can we know how our IT compares? How can we assess where we stand? How can we define the gaps and take action to close them?
It seems to us that this is the vital question now for IT. As times get tougher, as competition gets tighter, we really have to focus on how to become superior in the use of IT in the business. That’s the challenge, something that practices in IT Financial Management and IT Planning and Management should be prepared to address. And it’s important to do so. We should be able to answer “YES — our IT is superior to the competition’s!”