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Why IT Management Frameworks Don't Guarantee IT Success

Why IT Management Frameworks Don't Guarantee IT Success

It just isn't enough for your IT organization to have mature management and software development processes if the business organizations don't do their part. Companies also need an IT maturity model for the enterprise. PLUS: 5 tips to jump-start consultants and standards organizations

Alignment has improved only slightly since 2000, even though IT executives say it's a top goal almost every time they're asked

CIOs care a lot about their IT organization's maturity. CMMI, COBIT and ISO are well-established frameworks that IT organizations use to assess their evolutionary development, whether in project and software processes, service delivery, security and risk management or IT controls. Research and consulting firms have large and established revenue streams helping IT organizations to assess themselves and advance from one level of maturity to the next. But to my knowledge, the consultants have yet to establish a direct correlation between these levels of maturity and the degree of business-IT alignment, or how successful the IT organization is at delivering what the business wants and expects.

Alignment has improved only slightly since 2000, even though IT executives say it's a top goal almost every time they're asked. According to a September 2007 survey by the Society of Information Management and MIS Quarterly, IT organizations have, on average, made little progress in alignment in seven years.

Researchers Jerry Luftman and Rajkumar Kempaiah annually surveyed IT executives between 2000 and 2006 about how evolved their organizations were for six components of alignment: communications, value, governance, partnership, scope and architecture, and skills. A score of 1 indicated responders had an initial, ad-hoc process for that component, and a score of 5 was equated to an optimized process. The respondents' average score (across all components) during the period between 2000 and 2003 was 2.99, and the average between 2004 and 2007 was 3.18. That's not a big jump for a seven-year period. Something is preventing IT organizations from moving alignment along.

Do Mature IT Practices Matter?

Maybe CIOs and consultants have their eye on the wrong ball — they are too focused on the best practices of the IT organization. Perhaps the degree of rigor in software development processes CMMI or looking at the control and audit processes (CoBit), are necessary for running a tight, internal IT ship, but insufficient to bring IT closer to the business.

Let's think of all the ways an enterprise can derail a well-intentioned IT organization trying to move along in its practices, but failing to achieve a high level of alignment. Perhaps the primary metric for IT is the cost of IT itself, and not the impact of technology use in the business. Perhaps business participation in strategic projects is sporadic, but the project is expected to proceed anyway. Perhaps senior executives are naive about ways technology could help their business units, or they quash efforts by IT staffers who try to make recommendations. Perhaps the CEO has not set any specific expectations with the CIO and is only monitoring the role by the absence of complaints about IT. I could go on, but you get the idea.

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