A lot of industry observers talk about the business-IT alignment gap, and how IT often fails to meet the fast-changing needs of businesses. This is certainly a gap seen within the insurance sector, with IT departments often scrambling to be able to effectively support new product lines.

However, new research shows IT may be harder on itself than the business ever was. And the recent economic hurricane may have given non-IT executives a healthier appreciation for their information technology functions. Business executives, overall, seem pleased with the way IT helped organizations navigate the rough seas. IT leaders, however, feel they could be doing better.

This gap between IT and business perceptions was released in a recent McKinsey & Co. study of 444 higher-level executives from a range of industries and geographies. The authors, Roger Roberts and Johnson Sikes, report that the recent economic downturn only increased awareness of the role IT can play in improving business processes and reducing costs.

McKinsey found that non-IT executives by and large believe their IT functions responded effectively to the crisis. A majority, 55%, say current performance in providing basic IT services is very or extremely effective—an increase from last year’s 50% level.

However, less than half of the IT executives surveyed say their management of IT infrastructure is extremely or very effective. Only 30% say their IT governance is extremely or very effective, and only 21% are happy with the ability of IT to add value to their business, compared to 30% of non-IT executives.

A majority of non-IT executives also are mainly pleased with IT's ability to deliver projects on time and on budget (more than 30% say IT is very effective, and 33% say IT is somewhat effective).

The survey hints that organizations that took the most advantage of information technology going into the recent downturn may have come out the strongest.

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