Gartner: shrinking budgets canopen boardroom door

The trend towards business process outsourcing and the drive for local business managers to control their own department's IT...

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The trend towards business process outsourcing and the drive for local business managers to control their own department's IT budgets need not be a threat to the chief information officer, according to analysts' group Gartner. It could put them in a strong position to move up to the boardroom.

Delegates to the Gartner conference in Florence heard this week that they faced a considerable reduction in their IT budgets. But the analyst firm also argued that a new, key role for the CIO is emerging that involves managing the supplier relationships in business process and traditional IT outsourcing contracts. It is in these relationships the CIO can add the most business value.

John Mahoney, vice-president and research director at Gartner said: "The CIOs are foremost a business person and secondary an IT professional." He said to succeed to board level, CIOs will need to find people to deliver IT infrastructure and, at the same time, be in a position to deliver an IT environment.

One of the barriers he felt they would need to overcome is the perception of being a techie. "It's a bit like when the chief engineer on an ship moves onto the bridge: they only see the overalls."

To overcome this, he said, CIOs would need to engage in conversations about the business and the technical drivers that will affect the business.

He warned that the CIO would lose credibility if the business suffered IT outages. "The CIO needs to deliver 24-by-7 operations," he added.

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