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Technical insight: SA companies fail to align business to IT

By Graeme Allcock

Business and IT must be aligned if business is to succeed. That has been the focus of business and IT consultants for years.

However, a recent survey undertaken by Compuware SA – the local subsidiary of the multi-billion dollar company which is focused on providing business value around the application lifecycle – indicates that the majority of business executives in this country still pay lip service to the concept of business/IT alignment.

The study was conducted among 180 executives who attended the recent Gartner Conference in Cape Town – all of whom have a direct involvement in the adoption of IT systems by their organisation. In fact, almost one quarter of respondents claimed to be responsible “for making decisions that significantly affect the profitability or strategic direction” of their companies while another 22% select providers. Only 14% acknowledged being accountable for the ROI (return on investment) of the application.

Yet, says Graeme Allcock, Sales Manager, Compuware SA, despite the fact that these respondents make critical decisions which have an impact on the very foundations of the business, only 30% said meeting business requirements was the most important factor in the development of IT applications.

“A higher proportion (31%) placed greater store on project delivery – that is, launching the application on time and within budget. That’s the metric these executives use to determine whether an application meets quality targets – not whether it meets business requirements but whether it’s delivered on time. Less than a quarter (23%) rated ensuring the application has the features and function needed to meet business requirements as the key metric to determine the quality of the application.

“These responses are concerning,” says Allcock. “It’s not as if executives don’t understand the importance of application quality which includes ensuring the application meets specific business requirements. In fact, on the question of which single application quality factor has the most significant business impact on the success of an application, almost half – 45% – said that they considered having the application meet the business requirements as the most significant. This was rated as more important than the performance/response time of the application (12%), reliability (10%) and availability (9%).

“But this brings a worrying anomaly to the fore. Why, when 45% of respondents stated that aligning the application with the business was the most important measure to determine the quality of an application, did only 30% rate this alignment as the most important factor in the development of applications?”

“It seems that when it comes down to practicalities, quality has to take a back seat to the delivery imperative,” he says.

Interestingly, 85% of respondents agreed that identifying business risks associated with an application and using that information as the basis for quality testing of that application would be a good investment of resources.

“But it seems many executives don’t feel the need to test their applications for quality.”

A healthy 64% of respondents have implemented formal quality processes to ensure application quality. And more than 80% of respondents claim to be satisfied with their overall application quality – indeed 18% are ‘very satisfied’.

“However, the number of respondents who have invested in quality testing tools for application development – around 39% – is dwarfed by those who have not (46%).

“This is despite the fact that it’s all but impossible to ensure application quality without some automation. In fact, almost every respondent who had implemented quality-testing tools reported improvements in the quality of their applications.

“However, while just over 40% (44%) said the implementation of strong process disciplines is how their organisation best ensures application quality, 33% felt strong process discipline to ensure application quality was more often an organisation goal than reality,” Allcock adds.

He maintains that one of the major problems in SA organisations is that the concept of application quality is not yet fully understood.

“There are three pillars associated with application quality: fulfilment of business strategy; impact on business infrastructure; and whether the application itself is bug-free, easy to use, and available. If just one of these pillars is missing, an application can be deemed to have failed,” he concludes.

For more information, contact Graeme Allcock at Compuware Corporation SA
on +27 11 516 2900 or visit their web site at http://www.compuware.co.za

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The Big Change is a business strategy blog and newsletter published by Arthur Goldstuck, managing director of World Wide Worx, a leading technology research organisation based in Johannesburg, South Africa.

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