• 06/16/2006
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Emerging Enterprise: Strategic IT

IT leaders at most small and midsize companies still don't have much say in business decisions, according to an NWC/InformationWeek survey of more than 400 SMB technology executives. We

Kirk boosted the artists' productivity up to eight times when he proposed and won approval from business leaders to construct a server farm for video-imaging rendering, to take the processing load off individual workstations. Now, instead of using their own workstations, the artists send scenes they've completed to the farm--essentially a large collection of blade servers--so they can immediately move on to their next scenes.

The render farm so far has cost the Burbank, Calif.-based company $50,000. Kirk was able to sell the idea because of its potential business benefits. "We're developing larger environments--massive battlefields, for example--with exponentially more detail," says Kirk, who meets with the CEO and business departments regularly. The work they're doing now translates into a more appealing product and, the company hopes, more sales.


But too many IT departments in emerging enterprises, defined by Network Computing and InformationWeek as organizations with fewer than 5,000 employees, find themselves stuck in tactics mode: fighting fires and struggling to convince executives that IT isn't just the computing equivalent of the local car shop--a place they never think about until something breaks, and that always charges more than they want to pay.

The good news is that almost half the respondents to our poll say they are working more closely with business management than they were a year ago. Yet only a quarter believe top management makes business goals and objectives clear to IT, indicating there's still a long way to go before business and IT truly align in emerging enterprises. The picture isn't necessarily brighter a few years down the road: Only 12 percent of the respondents say their IT organizations will have the greatest need for strategic planners in the next five to 10 years, with more respondents predicting their skill needs to be bread-and-butter IT functions, including IT operations (35 percent) and programming (19 percent).

"You get caught in the trap of, 'The IT guy is the geek with the pocket protector,'" says Orin Owen, director of IT at G&T Conveyor, a $100 million manufacturer of airport baggage-handling systems headquartered in Tavares, Fla. Executives' perceptions of IT affect the relationship adversely, Owen says. "The business side hasn't recognized that IT can help them advance the business." 

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