IT leaders must forge closer links across the business to drive commercial success, says Claranet

Two-thirds of European IT departments do not fully understand the needs of their organisations

European businesses suffer from a lack of understanding between the IT department and the rest of the business, according to research from Claranet. The managed services provider argues that IT leaders who do not strive to overcome this rift could be contributing to the underperformance of their business.

Vanson Bourne surveyed 900 IT leaders from mid-market businesses in the six markets in which Claranet operates (Germany, Benelux, France, Spain, Portugal, and the UK) and found that only 28 per cent of European IT departments believe that they fully understand the needs of the wider business. It also found that only 26 per cent of European IT leaders believe that the wider business has a complete understanding of the role of the IT department, further demonstrating the apparent divide between IT and the rest of the business.

While there has been a slight improvement on the levels of understanding reported in 2015, when these figures stood at 26 per cent and 21 per cent respectively, Andy Wilton, CIO of Claranet, argues that more must be done to reduce the gulf between IT and other departments:

This upturn is positive, but nowhere near sufficient for the goals of most modern businesses and the buck stops with IT leaders. IT leaders have a key role to play in building understanding between their department and the wider business. Those IT leaders who aren’t prioritising developing an understanding between IT and the business are harming their own career prospects and the prospects of their business. In all sectors we see how great applications and data management lead to business success. IT teams and managers have a key leadership role to play here, but without greater business understanding, the opportunities will be missed.”

IT leaders need to be more visible and proactive than ever, because if they aren’t evangelising about the importance of the role of IT in a business, who will? By acting as a figurehead for IT in a business and encouraging dialogue between teams, the IT department gains a much better idea of what individual teams do and how to support them. Equally, business functions will benefit from innovative approaches to IT that will aid their performance.”

Wilton concluded:

In order to better support the business the IT team must focus more energy on the applications and data that are key to business success, and less on day-to-day technical management and infrastructure maintenance. These activities are a large part of the reason that the IT department is stuck in a reactive mode and prevent it from driving the wider business agenda. Working with trusted third parties can help to reduce the burden of these tasks, freeing up the IT department to be proactive and contribute directly to the business’s future. Ultimately the businesses that succeed will be those with IT leaders who can deliver cross-departmental understanding and free up their IT teams to innovate.”