Feature

Skills lying dormant in IT departments

Businesses should wake up to the vat of experience lying untapped in minds of their IT staff, says Mark Lewis

Only the most myopic of today's IT directors would doubt the value of flagging up the benefits IT can deliver to the rest of the business. But it shouldn't be just IT that's flagged up. Colin Saunders, IT director at Warburtons Family Bakers, believes departments are currently missing a trick by restricting their talk solely to matters of technology.

"There's a lot of emphasis on the T of technology rather than the I of information," says Saunders.

"The department is a very under-utilised resource, and it continues to bug me. We don't get as much credit for the stuff we do that's not IT."

Saunders asserts that the department should be looking to prove its worth by offering its non-IT skills to the rest of the business.

Specifically, he believes its project management skills and experience could prove to be extremely effective internal marketing tools.

Rather than being content to add just the IT ingredients to any given project mix, he argues that IT departments should be elbowing their way into the vanguard of business-wide projects.

"The purist view is that 'the business should be managing the project - we don't want this to be an IT-led project'. It's as if IT isn't part of the business," says Saunders.

The reality is that IT is perfectly positioned to drive projects forward. Not only does it know a critical path from a dependency network, it is also uniquely well positioned to be able to view a project in its broader context.

"We are involved in every part of the business and well-positioned to see the big picture. We see a process through from end to end," says Saunders.

Moreover, since the IT department doesn't approach a project with the expectations of, say, the sales or marketing departments, it has the capacity to be an "unbiased referee, and advocate what's best for the business".

Saunders goes further. Since IT is so experienced in project management, why doesn't it make its skills available around the business, as a project trouble-shooter? Indeed, why don't companies establish a pan-business "task force or SWAT team that exists solely to deliver business change projects", drawn from different disciplines, including IT?

Who knows? In time, says Saunders, the IT department might be justified in rebranding itself as the "business change department".


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This was first published in March 2000

 

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