Two-thirds of 200 IT managers who responded to the survey, conducted by Deloitte & Touche and IDG Research Services, said they have been largely unsuccessful in measuring and communicating to their executives the value of the work that they and their staff do.
Yet most believe they are doing good work. Ninety percent of the survey respondents said the value of information technology is either critical or very important to their companies.
"In conducting the survey and analyzing the results, we saw a common dilemma emerge," Dean Nelson, leader of Deloitte & Touche's Integration, Development and Infrastructure group, said in a statement.
"CIOs and other IT leaders are under increasing pressure to deliver real business value from IT investments but are challenged when it comes to quantifying and communicating that value," he added.
Whether chief information officers have poor communication skills or quantifying the payoffs of IT investments is inherently difficult, many business managers have a "murky view of technology," according to the study.
That lack of clarity, after businesses went on technology shopping sprees in the late 90s, may be a key factor contributing to. As companies continue to scrutinize purchases, analysts forecast that overall IT spending will be flat or up only slightly this year over last, which researcher IDC called the "worst year in the history of the IT industry."
The survey also indicated that many IT groups lack clear priorities. Many respondents said their budgets are evenly split this year among hardware, software and security investments, "exhibiting a fragmentation of IT efforts with no prevailing focus," the study concluded.
And 84 percent of respondents, despite being designated by Deloitte & Touche and IDG Research Services as IT leaders of their companies, said they are not decision makers who assess the value of IT. The study interpreted that to mean IT managers have lost the empowerment they gained during the boom.
Respondents of the survey all work for companies and government agencies with annual revenues between $250 million and $5 billion, according to Deloitte & Touche.