Improving business awareness within the IT department will be a major focus for IT directors during 2006.
Early indications from Gartner's annual CIO Agenda study of more than 1,100 CIOs indicate that the top priority for 2006, as in 2005, will be to deliver projects that enable business growth.
Hard on its heels is a requirement to build business skills within the IT department, according to Gartner analyst Mark MacDonald. "The single biggest challenge for IS is to bring in business skills," he said.
The problem users face, according to MacDonald, is that many of the processes within IT departments are not geared towards building and improving business skills within the IT team.
Often IT directors prefer to hire people from outside the company to take on board new skills, but the best organisations get new skills from within the business, he told delegates.
MacDonald recommended IT directors hire business relationship managers from within their own organisation. People who have reached a glass ceiling in the company make suitable recruits. MacDonald also suggested IT managers put their teams on end- user training courses.
"It is the most effective way to teach technology people about the business," said MacDonald. This will give them first-hand experience of how end-users actually handle products and systems, rather than only experiencing the product from an IT or non-business user perspective.
Improving IT's understanding of the business is key to successfully developing IT systems to support business processes.
MacDonald said, "About 40% of business process IT projects fail because the IT team does not have the right skills or it tries to own the business process." Once the IT department thinks it owns the business process, MacDonald warned, "Within eight months, the CIO is out."
Assessing the challenges for 2006, MacDonald said there would be a continued focus on business process management, along with a new emphasis for IT directors to think strategically about customers.
Budgets are set to increase by around 2.5% in 2006 with European IT directors prioritising IT investments in business intelligence tools, mobile workforce enablement projects and collaborative technology.