5 Challenges to Integrating IT and Business

By John Parkinson  |  Posted 12-12-2007

Managing the demands of the business can keep any CIO up at night. While several well established processes can help IT executives meet the challenge, it's equally important to recognize the obstacles that stand in their way.

Here are five of the biggest challenges:

No clean slate. IT organizations almost never get to start fresh--the state of affairs CIOs inherit tends to have been constructed by generations of technologists who did things in different and sometimes incompatible ways. And decommissioning legacy technologies is never as easy as adding new technologies to the stack, so old technologies hang around, complicating the infrastructure landscape.

Too little, too late. Many of the technologies selected aren't all CIOs would wish in terms of maturity, stability, performance and so on. The technologist and business manager always want features that aren't available yet--and will generally arrive later than promised. So IT is forced into workarounds--and when the desired features finally arrive, the IT providers are so well versed in their workarounds that they don't replace it, defeating the purpose of the original plan.

Unrealistic expectations. The business has an inflated view of the technology's lifecycle. Price performance continues to improve over time, but the unit cost of most technology doesn't decline nearly as fast. Vendors add power, capability and features to their products to keep unit prices up, even as they hype improved price performance. The practical result: IT must spend more time than seems reasonable on each refresh cycle--even though in many cases demand has grown enough to make the added capabilities and capacity necessary.

Out-of-sync strategies. Demand isn't generated at the same rate in all areas of the business. Most companies have multiple growth cycles and portfolios of differently timed growing investments, established cash cows and declining but still important areas to help smooth revenues and margins. IT is expected to match its investments to the various elements of the portfolio and optimization strategies are sometimes at odds with this. This complicates IT's ROI models, especially if the CIO is not fully attuned to the nuances of corporate strategy.

Nothing stays the same. These processes must be done over and over to keep up with business evolution, different rates of growth and competition in various business areas and shifting of executives into and out of positions of influence.