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Alignment once again tops the list of key issues for IT managers, according to a just-completed survey from the Society for Information Management. But what are the other key challenges facing CIOs and other tech execs? Here's the list.
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"IT and Business Alignment" is again the top concern of IT managers, according to just-released findings from the Society for Information Management's annual survey of chief information officers and other technology managers.
Last year, alignment—which was the No. 1 issue among CIOs from 2003 to 2006—was second behind "Attracting and Hiring IT Professionals" as the top concern of business technology leaders.
But this year, the issue once again emerged as the top challenge for CIOs.
Because companies still haven't gotten it right, says Jerry Luftman, a distinguished professor at the Stevens Institute of Technology who oversees the survey for the Society for Information Management (SIM), a national organization of CIOs. Even today, people are putting IT in a subservient role—"[as] an enabler of business change as opposed to also giving it an opportunity to be a driver of change," he says. But, to succeed, he says, companies have to align both strategies. "It's a two-way deal."
However, many companies set themselves up for failure.
"Too frequently everybody is looking for the silver bullet—that one magic answer that's going to help improve IT within the overall corporate arena," Luftman says. "And there is no one, single thing." Success depends on a number of factors, he says, including good communication between IT and the business, effective governance, and good technology and people.
SIM sends out its annual member questionnaire each year. The survey asks questions about budgets, top concerns, and other topics. This year, almost 300 companies responded to the survey.
While hiring and retention of IT employees fell in this year's results, Luftman is quick to point out that the issue is still a key concern for CIOs. It's "a very, very dominating, pervasive conundrum that faces IT executives," he says.
The main reasons the issue came in as a lower priority this year was that "Attracting New IT Professionals" and "Retaining IT Professionals" were listed as two separate items on the questionnaire sent out by SIM. Luftman separated the two to see how each would rate and if one would come in as more important than the other.
When the results were tallied, "Attracting New IT Professionals" was listed as the No. 4 concern and "Retaining IT Professionals" was listed as the No. 8 challenge. (In the overall results, retention was listed in a three-way tie - along with improving IT quality and security and privacy - as the eight biggest challenge facing CIOs).
Attracting IT talent came out as the more significant issue, Luftman says, "because people are worried about having the appropriate skills available in the pipeline; to [be able to] bring in people that can hit the ground running and deliver what the business needs."
In fact, he notes, this year No. 2 issue was building business skills in IT. And when you look at that issue in combination with hiring and retention, human resource issues accounted for almost one-third of the challenges for CIOs.
Another surprise from the survey—considering the state of the economy—was that "Reducing The Cost Of Doing Business," fell in the ranking from No. 4 last year to No. 8.
But that doesn't mean CIOs are any less worried about the economy. In fact, "IT Strategic Planning" and "Making Better Use Of Information," both moved up substantially. This, says Luftman, reflects that fact that CIOs and the companies they work from want to be smarter about their operations than they've been during economic downturns in the past. Instead of just slashing and dashing, he says, companies want to be smart about where they cut and where they invest so that they're in a good competitive position when the economy turns around.
Also, says Luftman, early results show that IT budgets are in good shape for next year—with many IT professionals saying that their companies will be spending more on technology in 2009.
Luftman declined to provide more specifics, but noted that the full results of the SIM survey will be made public at SIM's annual convention, SIMposium, which will be held November 8-12 in Orlando, Fla.
Next: The List Of Top 10 IT Concerns