Confidence among IT directors that their firms' business processes and IT systems are well-integrated has shown tentative signs of slipping in recent months, and IT chiefs also appear to be losing confidence that their core systems are robust and scalable enough to cope with future challenges.
When surveyed last month, 61% of UK IT directors said their companies' business processes integrated well with their IT systems - 10 percentage points lower than when the same statement was put to them in April.
The findings come from Computer Weekly's CIO Index, which tracks UK industry trends through a quarterly survey of top IT management.
The sense of growing anxiety among IT chiefs around IT-business alignment was highlighted by a drop in the proportion of IT chiefs who agreed that managing change was getting easier - 55% agreed this time, against 61% in April.
Concerns about data quality contributed to a sense of worsening relations between end-users and the IT department. This time around, 61% of IT directors said the quality of data provided by users was getting better, against 66% in the April poll.
However, in several other key areas IT directors appear more confident than they were earlier in the year. In the latest survey, 50% of IT chiefs said data and network security was not adequately funded - an improvement of 16 percentage points on April, when 66% said security funding came up short.
The figures suggest that, although security remains an area of fundamental concern, things are moving in the right direction.
Confidence that outsourcing is providing the expected benefits has also registered a small improvement - 30% said it was meeting expectations, against 25% in April - but most IT directors are still far from convinced about outsourcing's advantages and seem generally happier keeping the IT function in-house where possible.
The survey suggests that compliance with regulations may be getting more manageable. Seventy per cent of IT leaders said that regulatory compliance was under control, up from 66%, though that still leaves 30% of IT heads who feel they are failing to cope with the compliance burden.
Several other findings from July's survey matched closely those of our April survey.
Recruitment remains a notable issue. Nearly 33% of IT leaders said they were unable to get staff with the necessary skills.
Another bugbear lies in maintaining adequate lines of communication between the IT department and end-users. Forty per cent of IT leaders still believe that their end-users are not sufficiently trained to use systems effectively, and a similar proportion said that end-users did not advise staff regularly on their changing requirements.
However, despite the limitations and challenges faced, 98% of IT directors are still secure in the belief that they deliver a reliable service overall. And 90% remain positive that communications between IT and the business are improving.
An even greater proportion are confident that IT is continuing to improve its overall performance in the business. The CIO Index found that 92% of IT directors saw IT as providing more demonstrable business value than a year ago, and 96% said that than value would be even more evident a year from now.
Ninety per cent of respondents believe that IT management is getting on a more professional footing. The finding suggests that the IT professionalism initiatives headed by the British Computer Society and the National Computing Centre have caught the mood of IT directors.
In July, Computer Weekly conducted the second of its online surveys of IT directors in the Computer Weekly 500 Club. The research was carried out by our parent company Reed Business Information's market research department, strictly adhering to the Market Research Society's code of conduct.
Respondents graded their replies to a statement according to four categories: agree strongly, agree slightly, disagree slightly and disagree strongly.
Computer Weekly's CIO Index will be carried out quarterly and will provide analysis of key metrics for IT expenditure, technology adoption and business readiness.
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