CIOs must embrace the cultural revolution

Aligning IT with the business increasingly requires a cultural shift in the way systems are managed. At Telegraph Media Group, for instance, chief information officer Paul Cheesbrough has restructured IT to build a single department, combining the customer-facing web publishing side of the business and traditional back-office IT functions.

This has allowed him to deploy IT systems in unusual ways. The Telegraph’s Debate2010 website for the General Election is built on top of Salesforce.com, the cloud-based application which the company also uses to manage sales.

Websites are often run by separate teams outside the normal control of IT. Only by bringing internal IT departments and web teams together can a CIO have the means to deliver a cohesive business-aligned IT strategy.

IT departments must also look beyond traditional approaches, which often do not relate to how people use computers in the “real world”.

The Telegraph’s business strategy aims to target the “digital consumer”. Such people want to access information at any time from any device. They use webmail and applications such as Google Docs. Cheesbrough says staff must be given similar connectivity to improve their knowledge of digital consumers. So he runs a separate open Wi-Fi network to allow staff to use their personal smartphones and other mobile devices at work.

Both the business and IT can benefit. Cloud-based applications such as Gmail and Salesforce.com are considerably cheaper than traditional software, easier to deploy and offer fairly transparent subscription-based licensing. By embracing cloud and Web 2.0 technologies Cheesbrough has slashed his maintenance requirement and freed up more than two-thirds of his budget.

Analyst Gartner talks about how the consumerisation of IT will change the way internal IT operations function. CIOs cannot afford to ignore the fact that they are in the midst of a technology revolution bigger than the PC revolution of the 1990s. Unless the IT department changes, it will be sidelined by the business.

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