Maximising business value from IT is the theme of a series of events organised by blue-chip user group the Corporate IT Forum for its members this autumn.
Since its launch in 1995 as the Technical Infrastructure Forum, the group has broadened its focus from infrastructure to business processess.
This year's chairman, Denise Plumpton, IT director of mobile phone manufacturer Sendo, is one of the modern breed of business-focused IT directors.
Plumpton started out as a business planning strategist with Land Rover, moving to British Leyland's IT services spin-off AT&T Istel. She became commercial manager and IT director at Powergen, then IT director of TNT, before joining Sendo.
"I have always been more interested in asking, 'What is the business problem and how can IT help?' rather than being interested in the technology," she said. "A lot of people say they want to be a senior manager but do not want to let go of the technology."
Plumpton's experience has led her to view IT as going through a three-stage organisational cycle, from a devolved state to centralisation, followed by outsourcing, and then back to devolved.
"Organisations are usually in one stage or other of this cycle," she said. "The devolved organisation, with a small group at the centre for policy and governance, and the rest devolved, enables business unit flexibility.
"But the downside is duplication of effort. Therefore organisations centralise for more economy of effort, but the challenge then becomes one of retaining the hearts and minds to produce a service that meets business needs."
Outsourcing results when this challenge is not met. "Ten years ago, outsourcing was black and white, with entire departments outsourced," Plumpton said "But now we realise we cannot outsource a problem, so outsourcing is selective." Her core advice is, "Do not outsource what gives your organisation competitive advantage."
The Corporate IT Forum, which is still known by the acronym Tif, from its days as The Infrastructure Forum, is completely supplier-free. It currently has 140 corporate members.
What is Tif?
The Corporate IT Forum (Tif) is a subscription-based user group for corporate IT users which runs workshops, benchmarking and IT security-related activities. IT suppliers are excluded.
Tif has about 140 blue-chip corporate members, including 50% of the FTSE 100. It aims to help organisations deliver better value from IT to their businesses.
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Tif's autumn events
Tif's autumn programme features a series of best practice workshops building on the IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL) approach to IT service management.
ITIL is the most widely accepted approach to IT service management. It provides a cohesive set of best practice drawn from the public and private sectors internationally. The Office of Government Commerce, working with standards bodies, rewrote part of this library.
The key driver for ITIL is the recognition by organisations of their increasing dependence on IT to satisfy corporate aims and meet business needs. This is bringing about an increased requirement for high-quality IT services.
The autumn workshops, many held at corporate IT user sites, will address ITIL-inspired topics such as change management, capacity management and service level management.
Other topics lined up for Tif's autumn programme include thin-clients, application methodologies, implementing balance scorecards, software supplier management and IP telephony.
The IT Infrastructure Library