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Mon 1 Jan 2007 12:00 AM

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Setting the CIO agenda

Todd McGregor, managing director of Forrester Middle East, explains the IT agenda for forward thinking Middle East CIOs in 2007.

Business relationships will trump technology concerns for IT executives in 2007, despite unfinished or vexing technical tasks, based on our recent survey of IT executives. Respondents picked the long-standing issues of alignment, governance, and communicating value as their top concerns.

Below these, but still important, were cross-unit business initiatives, migration to shared services, and the exploration of BPM technologies as a way to formalise the management of business processes. These concerns highlight the growing realisation among CIOs that while technology prowess and depth are critical, they must help the business units of their enterprise achieve still-elusive efficiencies from technology.

In terms of priorities for 2007, 50% of our survey respondents said that improving and demonstrating IT/ business strategy alignment was one of their top three priorities. The good news is that progress is detectable.

Between 2005 and 2006, Forrester’s IT governance data reflected a significant jump - from 52% to 71% - in respondents who indicated that business and IT collaborate equally in setting IT direction.

36% of respondents noted that IT governance was top of mind, making it No. 2 in our list. And 34% of executives placed the prioritisation of tech investments near the top of their priority list. The issues? These IT organisations have yet to form a steering committee with the right stakeholder representation or, if they do have a steering committee, its purpose is unclear.

35% of respondents identified marketing and communicating IT value as one of their top priorities for 2007. The good news? In Forrester’s recent IT governance survey, 45% of responding IT organisations report improvement in perception - they are viewed more positively than a year ago. When asked how they managed this, two key approaches that they cited were improving the reliability of their infrastructure and better communicating IT’s value and success to the rest of the company.

So what else is on the minds of IT executives for 2007? Many were working to increase business efficiency and lower those costs that may have ballooned during years of mergers and acquisitions, the decentralisation of IT and data centres, and the difficult task of changing application-dependent processes to match demands of business peers.

19% that cited cross-unit business initiatives are trying to overcome their organisation’s application silo history, whether it involves standardising business practices, consolidating instances of ERP applications, or leveraging customer information managed by multiple departments.

Although many organisations that could do so have already migrated, 18% noted shared services as a 2007 priority.

Consolidating infrastructure, such as data centres, network management, information security, and the help desk, has been a no-brainer cost-saving move for IT organisations, helping them contribute to the bottom line or freeing up money for investment in new capabilities.

Companies have long been losing patience with the insular and tech focused IT of the past. Today however technology is completely pervasive; day-to-day operations are totally dependent on technology and business innovation nearly always has a technology implication. In 2007 CIOs will look down at their operations, up at their bosses expectations and out and around. As a result, many of them will continue or begin their transformation beyond the old IT and into business technology.

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