International data corportation surveyed 283 top executives across three vertical industries: finance, manufacturing, and retail/wholesale. They found "a strong correlation between the effectiveness of the IT department (IS organization) and the relationship between the CIO and the CEO. "We suspect taht this relationship, if it is close, permits the CIO to develop the IT department (IS organization) into a service that delivers competitive advantage for the company, thus enhancing the careers of every IT professional in the organization." In other words, "a certain amount of mutual esteem will help IT (IS) function as a business partner." In terms of alignment, sound relationships between IT and the business become even more important. Boar (1994) states that aligning with anything other than the customer leads to momentary success. For the IT function to achieve a state of alignment with the business, it must align with the businses scope, and through that business scope enable all business functions and processes to serve the customers in a superior manner.
It End-User Relationships: Historical Foundations
For many years, the culture gap between IT departments and their end users has been characterized by unfortunate differences like distrust, scepticism, and cynicism. This situation impacts negatively on the relationship of IT departments with their end users, and as such on their ability to produce service and support of high quality.
Historically, the gap was caused mainly by the difference in management culture, as well as human behaviour problems on both sides. Umbaugh (1991) states in his argumentation of organizational imbalances that too often IT exists as an adjunct to the organization and not as an integral part of the whole. This situation unfortunately still exists today and contributes to the so-called culture gap between IT departments and their end users. Du Plooy (1995) explains this gap as follows:
...the ‘culture gap’ should be understood as a gap of misunderstanding in the sense of two different organizational ‘cultures’ that, according to Grindley, coexist in most organizations. The two cultures under discussion here are the ‘culture’ of the IT profession and the ‘culture’ of the rest of the organization.
The culture on both the IT department and the business side is also an important obstacle in building mutual trust, and eventually in building sound relationships between IT and its end-user environment, and as such in creating alignment between IT and the business. According to Moad (1994), the IT professional has been fighting for recognition and relevance at the CEO level for the last 25 years. He gives many examples illustrating the kind of culture that exists, which could be described as the main reason for misunderstandings and misconceptions about IT amongst today’s end users.