Readers Weigh In On Biggest Obstacles To Business Success - InformationWeek

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Readers Weigh In On Biggest Obstacles To Business Success

Applications are important, but what IT really needs to improve intelligence, processes and performance is more business direction.

Your organization's support for BI? To develop our 2009 InformationWeek Analytics/Intelligent Reader Priorities report, we asked 305 business technology professionals to select their biggest obstacles to business success from among a dozen IT maladies known to plague enterprises. The top three challenges? Adapting business processes for changing conditions; accessing relevant, timely, or reliable data; and integrating, normalizing, or cleansing data. Developing vital reports, metrics, dashboards, or alerts came in close behind.

These results tell us that, despite all the progress and sophistication of enterprise IT, many companies still struggle with the basics of information management. After all, you won't be worrying about reducing data latency and supporting faster decision-making if you're still stuck at the first-level challenge of accessing and integrating data. And customizing or optimizing business processes and applications is unlikely to be a concern for those who can't get past an inflexible corporate culture and slow-moving IT development regimes that aren't keeping pace with fast-changing business conditions.

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But what really surprised us is that, when asked what would improve their productivity, respondents ranked "better guidance from business leaders" first, and "additional financial support or additional staff" dead last among 10 possible responses. That's good news in that the "IT investment" these respondents are asking for is as much about time, organization, and leadership commitments as it is about hard-cash outlays. Now, top executives will likely have their hands pretty full over the next few quarters, so it might be tougher than ever to get their attention. And we're guessing it would not be a good career move to waltz into the executive suite and declare, "You really need to be doing a better job communicating strategy, and while you're at it, how about more support for our IT initiatives?"

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Of course, the usual advice to "gain high-level sponsorship" certainly applies, but we'd hit the ball right back into IT's court and challenge CIOs and tech pros to engage line-of-business leaders. Particularly in these times, it's incumbent on everyone to understand the organization's mission and proactively seek direction from business leaders, rather than waiting for orders from above.

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