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Today IT departments face many conflicting demands.

Business expects IT to deliver on key initiatives to support core business strategies -- initiatives such as integrating company acquisitions, globalization of operations, transformation of business models and compliance with regulations.

At the same time, business requires high-quality, low-cost IT services with a minimum level of risk. Today's IT departments have to do more with less.

So how is this challenge being met? The tales about IT project failure are legendary. But the responsibility does not solely lie with IT. The business is often not able to articulate its needs or is not aware of its own misaligned operating models. Business perceives IT as not being involved enough in understanding strategies and not being transparent concerning the risks and costs to IT services.

Why IT fails to meet business expectations

IT's failure to meet business expectations has multiple causes. First, management of the partnership between business and IT commonly lacks consistency and process. Business management does not successfully communicate its strategies and priorities to IT. Nor does it understand the origin of IT's strategy (if perceived as a strategy).

Often business and IT do not even have a common terminology and view of IT support. Moreover, they lack road-mapping capabilities to efficiently synchronize business and IT activities. The result is a failure to manage business expectations on IT delivery and to communicate the effects of changes to business strategy on IT plans.

The second problem is found within IT itself. It lacks transparency of the IT landscape and the understanding of how it supports business -- i.e. which processes, capabilities, locations and organizations are supported by which parts of IT.

This leads to a "don't-change-a-working-system" attitude, causing a lack of flexibility in IT to business demands, a bloating of the application and technology portfolios and their associated costs, and project failures due to conflicts and impacts not seen during planning. The same lack of transparency means that IT cannot provide business with clear KPIs on the costs of and risks to IT services, which frustrates business execs, leaving them to make decisions based on instinct, rather than facts.

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