Business Users and IT Pros View Things Differently

January 31, 2013

No wonder there are clashes between users and their enterprise systems. Network Computing ‘s “IT Perceptions, End User Realities” examines a recent report from InformationWeek that revealed a bit of a schism between IT pros and, well, everyone else. In the perception study, end users and IT personnel expressed divergent views on IT’s role and how well its members have been performing.

The study (available here, free with registration) asked survey takers IT-related questions, and broke answers down into those of IT and non-IT professionals. While 60 percent of the techies saw IT as integral to their organization, only 43 percent of the rest agreed. And though only 34 percent of the IT folks saw their department as “not especially innovative,” 42 percent of other respondents held that disparaging view. The survey also found that only half of business users were at all satisfied (“moderately,” “very,” or “completely”) with the performance of their IT divisions, and 20 percent reported being not satisfied at all.

Having dipped a toe in the IT field, I can sympathize. Hardware and software and, especially, the intersection of the two often fail to perform as expected even for the most seasoned technician. The challenge of tracking down a problem within an eclectic system is a process only those who have closely observed it can begin to appreciate. On top of that, IT is one of those jobs where people tend not to notice your work until something goes wrong. Still, IT pros used to get more respect. What changed? Writer Kevin Fogarty suggests:

“In the past, IT held the technology trump card. If the marketing department asked for a new application and IT said no, there was no chance a rouge team was going to sneak into the data center, rack a server, run the cables and fire up the software. Now those who chafe under restrictions from find themselves with easy, relatively inexpensive access to applications and services online. . . .

“Unfortunately for IT, this state of affairs enforces the notion that hot new technology comes from outside the company, while IT faithfully keeps the old, busted stuff alive inside the company. It’s an attitude that the technologists theoretically responsible for moving the company into the future are, in fact, anchoring it in the past.”

So now, IT departments must find new and exciting ways to justify their existence while simultaneously maintaining finicky legacy systems. Many, I would add, must do this with staffs that have been gutted over the last few years.

There is one hopeful point for IT in the report: 59 percent of the non-IT personnel think internal IT will become more important over the next two years. Maybe they don’t like the IT department very much, but at least they know they still need it. At least a little bit.

Cynthia Murrell, January 31, 2013

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