Corporate IT is in turmoil as users shift from company-issue hardware and software to consumer offerings. Tech marketers like to think that employees are leading the way, but a pair of Forrester surveys reveal that executives are driving the change. And they're listening more to their customers than their employees.
Late last year, Forrester polled 1,000 U.S., Canadian and European corporate executives from companies with 1,000 employees or more. Their top four business concerns, in order, are:
• improving business capabilities;
• increased customer expectations;
• pressure to cut costs;
• and increased competition for goods and services.
Eighty-nine percent ranked improving business capabilities a high or critical priority. Only 58% ranked the pace of technological change as a high or critical business concern, with a mere 16% counting it as critical.
As James Carville said: It's the economy, stupid.
Executives: IT is the Biggest Roadblock to IT
Forrester conducted a similar poll among 1,047 North American and European IT managers with responsibility for their companies' budgets. Guess what? In every category of IT operations performance, the IT workers rated their own efficiency more highly than did the executives. And that difference in perception, Forrester concludes, is driving business departments to take more responsibility for IT purchasing and deployment decisions.
"Senior management is frustrated with IT’s ability to deliver," Forrester's John C. McCarthy writes.
Only 15.7% of executive respondents said they're increasing their departments' involvement in IT, in an effort to decentralize procurement and deployment away from their IT departments. Fifty-nine percent say they get IT support from a centralized IT resource, while 20% say it comes from a dedicated, division-specific IT resource. (That last figure is up 9% over last year, by the way.) Among those who are increasing their divisions' involvement this year, 75% agreed with the statement, "Technology is too important for the business not to be involved," and 54% agreed with, "IT does not understand the business issues and priorities to do it by itself."
If we were to stop there, we might conclude that corporate departments want to move decision-making closer to the executive suite. However, when asked what they intend to do when they do get control of the IT process, a tremendous number of executives said they were planning to outsource it.
A full 36% of executive respondents said they plan to outsource IT services - a 19% jump over last year. And 25% said they plan to hire systems integration consultants this year, a 7% rise over 2010.
What do businesses expect these consultants to produce first? A total of 46% of executives responding said they either have already tasked these consultants, or are making plans within the next 12 months, to have them... build a website for them. Not a Facebook page, not a social gathering point, but a website.
Safety Still Leads to Hesitancy for the Cloud
You might think that cloud technology would play a more prominent role in affecting these executives' planning decisions. As it turns out, only 34% of executives responding say they use a SaaS application for customer relationship management or human resources - the two top categories of SaaS. Another 6% are requesting to use such service, and 19% are thinking about it, but the total doesn't even eclipse the two-thirds mark. And every other category of SaaS ranked lower on Forrester's executive survey.
What's keeping businesses from finally making the leap? The result was an absolutely clear signal, from both the executives and the IT managers polled: Some 38% of executives and 46% of IT managers polled agreed with the statement, "We cannot manage security to our strict standards" - far higher than any other statement in the list.
To summarize: Businesses absolutely know they need to cut costs in this economy, and they know both mobile devices and cloud applications are means to that end. But they don't know what Step 1 should be. Executives know the IT department isn't taking Step 1, so they and their division leaders are taking the reins for themselves. But once they have the control, they don't know how to begin either, so they hire consultants - even creating new external IT departments to take over from the internal ones. What's keeping them from going forward with what should otherwise be a simple implementation plan, are fears about security, compliance and identity management. Simple solutions are being obstructed by complex problems - far more complex than the consumerization of IT.
Stock photo by Shutterstock.