75th post – age old subject

I was surprised to see that this is my 75th post after only starting the blog in February of this year.  When I started out, I guessed that posting a couple of times a week might strike the right balance between boring people to death, balancing my work/life time demands, and making a contribution of at least some use.  After 26 weeks I am slightly ahead of target.  Natural enthusiasm one might say, or just poor forecasting as my board would no doubt argue….and let’s not even discuss quality issues just now!

Anyway I really risk boring you here, as I am on my old hobby horse – the inability of IT people to be smart enough to understand the business and make a meaningful contribution at all levels of the enterprise.  In particular the worrying emerging trend seems to be that CIOs are losing their seat at the board table.  This article in Computer Weekly is typical of late.  American readers should note that we Brits see less difference than you between a CIO, and an IT director, and the terms are often used interchangeably here.

Transatlantic idiosyncrasies aside, the important point is that the top IT job in the enterprise is losing power and voice.  This worries me because IT really ought to find it easy to justify its seat at the board table in the vast majority of large organisations.

Let’s be honest, every discipline wants a seat at the board table.  In a previous life I worked in facilities management and the industry bodies made lots of noise about the importance of FM, the size of the budgets, and the importance of “getting it right” vs the cost of “getting it wrong”.  IT has all those arguments and a whole lot more.  Not least the fact that IT can be one of the biggest enablers of increased sales/reduced costs/improved service/better customer knowledge and interaction etc etc etc.  So why aren’t the boards of our enterprise sized organisations rushing to lift IT’s profile?

Is this a reflection of the apocryphal “$100M diary system” CRM implementation?  The business view that every IT project costs a lot and delivers a little?

I think there are many unfair aspects to this criticism but, at the end of the day, the onus is on the IT team to prove that IT is a business driver and not just a cost centre.  I’ve said it before and I’ll keep on saying it – IT people need to listen to what the business wants, and deliver the right solutions at the right prices.  Then there is time to bask in a little glory and sell your achievements.  After all it’s important not only to deliver, but also to show you have delivered.

As Steven Covey once said, “Seek first to understand, then to be understood”.

In the CW article the quote I liked the most was from Tesco IT Director, Colin Cobain who said “IT directors should not have to sell IT to the board. They should work with them to solve problems. Part of this involves the IT leader having a clear vision of where the business is heading and making sure that they leverage the most relevant technologies to this end”.

I couldn’t agree more and such a statement makes Tesco look like a much more exciting place to work in IT.

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