For Rene Carayol, managing director of IPC Electric, a subsidiary of IPCMagazines, the human factor in the IT equation is more important than hardware and code, writes Mark Lewis.
"The major problem with the IT industry is the IT industry," he says. "We're chasing skills, not people."
To align more closely with the business, IT departments need people who are confident and streetwise enough to engage with the rest of the business - people who see adding to the bottom line, rather than crafting an architecture, as their function. Failure to do so will see IT become ever more marginalised.
As an IT professional, he says, you're a business, not a technology, instrument.
Carayol's view is ironic, since on paper he embodies the archetype of the IT chief who has moved up through the departmental ranks to reach his current position - starting with a "bone-crunchingly dull" spell as a code-cutter.
In Carayol's opinion, IT recruitment depends too much upon recruitment consultancies and head-hunters "delivering grey people into grey jobs for grey organisations".
Slavishly drafting in only those people with the perfect match for the skills set you require is needless, since one of the IT department's strong points has traditionally been its ability to skill up. "We can train and we can learn, we're good at that," he says.
We need to attract what Carayol calls "scary people" into our organisations. He refuses to subscribe to the theory that a chequered CV shows a lack of commitment and focus. On the contrary, he says that he welcomes an application that suggests an interesting background.
And Carayol goes further. To his mind, spicing up one's recruitment strategy is essential not just for the complexion of a single department, but for that of the IT industry as a whole.
"We need role models that will attract the sparky people into our industry. For all his millions, Bill Gates is not a flair vehicle, and not a style council," he says.
The answer, he believes, is to "get some big hitters in", to attract real talent. With e-commerce creaming off so much young IT talent, your department will need to make itself attractive if it is to entice decent candidates. What is more, such a positive approach will be self-perpetuating.
"I'm increasingly of the view that never again will we have a finished system - IT is constantly under repair," says Carayol.
This was first published in January 2000