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.

Wow.

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!”

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Bob Benson

Bob Benson is a Fellow with Cutter Consortium's Business Technology Strategies practice. His consulting features business value, effective IT application development, consulting methodology development, IT infrastructure planning, and facilitated planning.

Discussion

  3 Responses to “Is Our IT Superior to the Competition’s? No???”

  1. Thanks Bob. Interesting post. I think the lack of conviction on the part of Senior Management, is at times less related to actual IT performance and more connected to how the IT department performs within the corporate hierarchy. Positive perception breeds confidence.

    Naturally, I’m not talking smoke and mirrors, rather I’m talking about IT image. We have many great IT mentors out there to model personal communication styles after and present IT concerns in a business-friendly manner to Senior Management. I realize that my comment has little to do with actual IT issues, but it has everything to do with whether your voice is being heard.

    Although it would be difficult to measure, I wonder what the survey stat would be if more IT divisions worked at making their issues easily accessible and comprehensible to Senior Management? Maybe IT would then “matter” rather than being shoved off to the side to do ‘whatever it is that they do.’

    Gail Bryanton

  2. avatar

    Very interesting – although I can’t say that it is surprising. I have not been around many organizations that were proud or excited by their IT. And maybe that’s OK depending on the industry.

    I would be interested in asking the companies in the survey if they believe their employees are superior to that of their competition.

  3. Wow, I never knew that 27% of managers of large companies believe their IT is superior to that of their competition. That’s pretty interesting…

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