A New Year's resolution for CIOs: start to look at start-ups

So you’ve been back at work for a week now after the Christmas binge, and no doubt already you’re fed up with 2012 prediction stories.

In true mea culpa mode, Computer Weekly is as guilty as anyone, as our first digital magazine of the year focuses on some of the highlights we expect to be writing about over the next 12 months. Of course, they’re no different from the issues we’ve been writing about for the last few months, but there’s no harm in having a moment to take stock of where UK IT stands in a year when the eyes of the world will be on this country.

Our start-of-term report card would no doubt be headlined, “Could do better”. 2011 brought a slowly growing realisation among politicians and business leaders that technology can and must play a key role in the UK’s economic recovery, but IT is hardly at the top of the agenda.

Every time any major organisation talks about job cuts, IT is always one of the functions whose future is on the line. The use of technology is becoming increasingly strategic, but the role of IT employees perhaps less so. That has to change. IT cannot fully support economic growth if the country does not retain and develop its IT skills.

We wait to see how the government shakes up the mess that is IT education in schools – perhaps the single most important change for the long-term future of the IT profession – but that will bring little benefit during the immediate economic gloom.

We have wrung our hands for years about why the UK cannot produce the next Apple/Google/Facebook, but even with a growing government focus on tech start-ups, corporate IT decision-makers remain a risk-averse bunch in their attitude to selecting suppliers. That too must change, and here is where CIOs can play their part this year.

As I have suggested before, the advent of the cloud is heralding a dramatic change in the IT buyer-suppler relationship. This is already reflected in the consumer tech world, where small firms with no track record are gaining rapid popularity through things like mobile apps and cloud services. CIOs need to follow this trend.

When Autonomy founder Mike Lynch accepted his award as the most influential person in UK IT in our UKtech50 list last month, his speech called on IT leaders to be more open to start-ups – to take a risk on small firms they might otherwise ignore. This is where much of the innovation in IT is emerging, and as such promises to an important source of competitive advantage for those IT buyers that spot such an opportunity.

If there is one New Year’s resolution we would encourage IT managers to make it is this: to nurture your IT staff, and through them to nurture the innovative small firms that will be key to both your success, and our economic future.

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Hi Bryan
Good blog to start the year as it will be UK SME tech companies that can help dig UK out the mire! A subject dear to my heart as ex ICFC/3i now nurturing a “disruptive” IT start up.
I now realise HMG does not have a strategy to help these vital players at the point of "commercialisation". So I have asked Stephen Allott for meeting as the Crown rep for SMEs – I will keep you informed of progress….. or lack of it?
Good to see Mike Lynch say the same – but maybe he should practice what he preaches! I have tried over recent months to get him to understand our breakthrough technology (described as the holy grail of software by no less than Bill Gates) but no response not even an acknowledgement – that is just one of the many barriers that need to be addressed. If you see him maybe ask him how HP handles these innovative and cheeky upstarts that can change IT for the better...... other than ignoring them?
Maybe you could tackle this important issue help change UK attitudes more to US ones where barriers are less for innovative ventures - happy to contribute to a debate?
Keep up these good thoughts