Survey Shows Business Executives and IT Leaders Disagree on Future of Enterprise Tech Investing

By Peter Bernstein April 27, 2015

Perception can become reality, and this is not necessarily good news. This is particularly true during times of major change, which we are currently experiencing in almost every aspect of information and communications technology (ICT)—and especially since the perceptions of those in charge of making technology investment are at odds with both the perceptions and realities of those responsible for assuring risk mitigation, enhancing the customer experience, etc.

A case highlighting the discontinuity of perceptions, which could translate into realities regarding ICT investment, is contained in a new Harris Poll omnibus survey announced today by business process automation solutions provider Appian.

The survey, conducted February 2015, was designed to better understand trends and market opportunity in business process management solutions (BPM), custom software and cloud-based application development platforms. The sample consisted of 301 leading executives from companies with $1 billion or more in revenue in diverse industries, services, location, and work force size.  What it found at a high level was that despite strong support for innovations in custom software and cloud-based application development platforms, business executives and IT decision makers disagree when it comes to the prioritization of and investment in these enterprise technology solutions.

The context for the findings is that this discontinuity comes in the face of over $100 billion being spent building custom applications each year.

A tale of the perceptions

The latest survey is actually part two of a national two-part study on current IT trends and market opportunities. In part one, 306 IT decision makers attitudes about their challenges were examined.  It found that problems in rank order were:

  • 47 percent, maintenance of software/applications
  • 45 percent,  too many application and data silos
  • 38 percent, high cost of software/application development
  • 32 percent, slow time to market/deployment of new applications
Image via Shutterstock

On a positive front, in comparing the survey results 95 percent of business executives and 94 percent of IT decision makers expressed support for innovative solutions as they recognize past challenges with legacy technology providers when building, implementing and maintaining custom software—defined as software applications that must be built by either a company's internal IT team or through outsourced development because the required functionality cannot be purchased through a packaged software offering.

"While organizations have historically encountered challenges with custom software solutions from legacy technology providers, there is a better way to build, implement and maintain business applications," said Matt Calkins, President and CEO of Appian. "With 95 percent of business executives believing that investment in technology gives them a competitive advantage, separating leaders from the followers, it is time for organizations to harness the power of next-generation applications and custom software."

Disagreeing on investing in IT 

Where things get dicey are in views of business executives and IT decision makers regarding investing in custom software and cloud-based application platforms:

  • 87 percent of respondents from both groups believe custom software is driving innovation in technology.
  • According to business executives, operations (60 percent), customer service (55 percent), and finance (50 percent) are the key business areas that are driving the need for new technological solutions and applications.
  • 70 percent of IT decision makers cited investment in cloud-based application development as a solution to custom software.
  • In contrast, only 58 percent of business executives understand the value of this solution from an investment perspective.

Benefitting from cloud applications and custom software 

Business executives and IT decision makers agree on the top benefits of custom software and cloud-based application platforms:

  • Business executive and IT decision makers agree that the top benefit of custom software is its ability to be designed to serve a unique need (53 percent).
  • Agility to make enhancements (48 percent), delivering better customer service (45 percent), ease of integration (44 percent), and efficiency of software (44 percent) are also cited as benefits by business executives.
  • Business executives and IT decision makers agree financial services is the industry that will most benefit from custom software (59 percent and 48 percent, respectively). 
  • Retail (42 percent), telecommunications (41 percent), healthcare/pharmaceutical (39 percent), energy & utilities (38 percent), and manufacturing (38 percent) are also cited as top industries by business executives.

We have heard for years that IT needs to have its priorities better aligned with business objectives if it is to receive adequate funding.  In fact, IT has gotten noticeably better in requesting and obtaining capabilities that can help improve business performance.  However, it is still falling short in terms of upper management support. Clearly cloud applications and custom software are critical for achieving even better alignment given demands by individual end users, lines-of-business (LOBs) and the C-levels themselves.  C-levels do acknowledge that in a world where almost everything will be delivered as a service under software control, or will have it as a major component even when it comes to consumption of physical resources, investment in innovative technology is important.  Getting them to literally put their money where their perceptions are, however, remains elusive.  Let’s just say this is a continuing conversation where hopefully enhanced communications between both sides brings them closer together going forward rather than further apart.

For those interested in reviewing the full survey, the report it is available here.




Edited by Dominick Sorrentino
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