It appears IT managers can be a tad delusional when it comes to funding and prioritizing new projects in the age of Bring-Your-Own-Device (BYOD) policies, according to InformationWeek's "2012 IT Spending Priorities Survey." Or, as the report states: "IT managers are a band of wild-eyed optimists."
"It was hilarious to me how for every single project type, almost down to the individual level, everyone thinks they're going to save money for every single project that they do," says Jonathan Feldman, director of IT services for the city of Asheville, N.C., and author of the report. "The unbridled optimism is a little bit scary, especially if you have any financial training.
"You need to overestimate expenses and underestimate revenues. Those are key principles of being a conservative financial manager."
IT professionals need to temper their excitement and strike a balance between innovation and maintenance, as well as between technical and business priorities, he writes. But in the past 10 years, from one financial crisis to the next, IT project prioritization has shifted dramatically, thanks to the consumerization of IT, or BYOD.
"It's an interesting window. In 2002, we weren't stuck in the Great Recession quite yet. The [dot-com] bubble had burst, and I think folks were still trying very earnestly to do what was called at the time 'align IT with the business,'" he continues. "Ten years ago, you had fewer people on the business side of the workforce that had a clue about technology. Fast-forward to today, and you have what sociologists and human resource folks call 'technology natives.'"
Decentralization of IT Has Loosened IT's Reins
Today's knowledge workers are completely comfortable with technology, from cloud computing to social networking and utilizing productivity tools. In turn, that has created frustration in the workplace as users enjoy a better IT experience at home than they do in the office. Perhaps the problem facing corporate IT today is simply being unable to deliver that which consumer technology provides.
"It creates a certain amount of pressure on traditional IT managers that are used to being able to call the shots," Feldman says. "There was this notion of IT having a very tight span of control, and it's no longer true nor will it be in the foreseeable future."
The rigid control IT once enjoyed has failed to live up to its promise of ensuring absolute security.
"That was a lie. There are data breaches all the time. This tight span of control thing clearly isn't working, and it gets in the way of business units doing what they want to do," he adds. "So I think business units are gravitating towards more cooperative IT managers."
Not surprisingly, the report notes the top technology initiative of IT managers is to improve security (24%). Yet, deploying mobile device management for smartphones and tablets and launching or upgrading an enterprise social networking platform rank considerably low (8% and 2%, respectively). Given that social media and mobile devices are frequently cited as rising security threats to organizations, it's interesting IT managers would treat these latter initiatives as afterthoughts.
"A lot of people think security is a product that you can buy. It's not. In my business life, security continues to be a major focus but [my organization] is not trying to buy its way into security," he says. "It's about security awareness, cooperating, communicating and collaborating with other stakeholders in the organization.
"[IT managers] that don't think that social media is a priority are just not watching what their organization is doing."
Feldman says IT managers are also concerned by the strings attached to new budget allocations.
"Why would you ever think there's money with no strings attached? There's always strings attached to money, and yet there seems to be a lot of frustration about it in IT organizations," he says. "There's also an expectation that [IT] won't ask for new money and that they'll do new initiatives with savings for re-engineering and other types of reinvention."