IT departments a drain on UK businesses

Speaking at an IT Week conference on service level management, chief executive of the IT Service Management Forum Aidan Lawes warned that the gulf between business and IT was still huge.

‘Ten years ago, the majority of IT services were delivered to some other human being within the organisation. Now technology is in the front line. 80% of people who go to a website and are dissatisfied will walk away never to come back,’ Lawes said.

But IT continues to be seen as a support function in the same light as catering or security, budgets are seen to be out of control, and quality of service is seen as poor, often because there is a mismatch of perceptions between business and IT, Lawes warned.

‘IT is seen as not being responsive to business needs and costs are seen as opaque. Not only is IT seen as a bottomless pit, they don’t know what they’re getting for it,’ he said.

Many of the good IT disciplines for managing technology honed during the mainframe era had been lost with the advent of distributed systems, he warned. ‘There are too many IT degree courses where people come out unable to operate in the real world. And there aren’t enough MBAs about how technology can be harnessed to support the business.

‘We need to radically rethink the role and structure of IT. That means getting the business to focus on value not cost, and on process and people not technology. We need to think end-to-end service.’

Alain Dang Van Mien, research director at Gartner, said IT’s objective needed to be to deliver and show improvements in the business. But the analyst predicts that only half of all companies will have implemented business-focused service level agreements by 2005.

Gartner warns that IT departments need to shift their focus away from technology and towards business metrics including return on investment, total cost of ownership and improving business services.

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