The challenges for the newly-appointed IT leader

It is increasingly common that the IT leader role has a faster turnover of personnel than it did many years ago. Many of today’s CIOs tend to come in to a new job, see through a programme of change, then move on to the next challenge – unlike their forebears who might have stayed longer in what was often a more back-office operational role in the past.

So it is increasingly important that IT managers have not just the technical and business skills to be a success, but the ability to step into a new role, in a new environment, and make an instant impression.

Ian Campbell, the new CIO at Transport for London, not only faces managing a 500-strong IT team and a budget of £100m, but also following a high-profile predecessor in Phil Pavitt, who moved on last year to one of the biggest public sector IT jobs of all: CIO at HM Revenue & Customs.

There are many questions facing any new IT leader. Should the existing IT strategy be scrapped? What is happening with major projects already underway? What loyalties do existing staff have to the old regime? Even if the new starter has been brought in with a remit of managing and driving change, there is embedded inertia to overcome, and the inevitable response from employees of, “That’s not how we do things around here.”

Campbell faces one situation that many newly joined CIOs might recognise – a department that has made heavy use of outsourcing and external supplier resources. There might be a quick win to tell staff that retaining and using their skills is the priority, but the economic realities may mitigate against in-sourcing.

Campbell told Computer Weekly he is looking at the former – empowering his team to deliver change. Interestingly, British Gas CIO Dave Bickerton took a similar route, bringing a controversial multimillion-pound billing system back in-house.

But there is a common factor for all IT decision-makers finding themselves in the newbie’s position – the need to be more decision-maker than IT.