We need more visionary IT leaders

When IT leaders explain their reasons for not moving to a new technology, it is almost always due to immediate or short-term perceived problems.

Should you move to the cloud? Security is a concern. Should you overhaul your information security? Ooh, too risky, what if we get hit by cyber attackers? Should you let staff use their own devices? That’s not policy.

Whatever happened to long-term, visionary planning?

Think about what the IT world will be like in 10 years, perhaps even in five. Cloud will be ubiquitous in how organisations use IT. Emerging technologies like micro-virtualisation or advanced encryption will make data more secure than ever. Bring your own device (BYOD) will be the default for user access to corporate systems.

We all know these things, even if only as a gut feel. Looking further ahead makes the apparent problems faced today seem smaller, and puts them into better perspective. Working toward that vision gives a motivation to find solutions, and a reason to make them happen.

But still people stick to their complex legacy systems, and see only the hurdles in front of them, not the finishing line that can be reached with innovation and vision. Banks stick to old mainframes with 20-year old software, because there’s no three-year business case to justify replacing them. Royal Bank of Scotland can tell you what happens then.

IT leadership in large companies has become an increasingly short-term role. We often see CIOs coming in for a three to five year period to manage a programme of technology change. There seem to be fewer CIOs who offer a 10-year vision of the way that IT will change their business or industry sector, and set about working towards that vision.

There are, of course, exceptions. Barclays, for example, is encouraging staff to collaborate on ideas and support innovative projects. “”It is okay to fail. Scar tissue is a good thing,” says the bank’s European CIO Anthony Watson.

IT suppliers don’t help either, focused as they are on the next deal for their latest product. What’s more, according to a survey this week, 39% of IT staff lose at least one working day per week on tackling IT problems and chasing suppliers, while 69% have dropped suppliers in the past year because of customer service shortfalls.

The opportunities for business to grow through innovative uses of technology are greater than ever, and that needs IT leaders with long-term vision, working with suppliers who can share and support that goal. Surely, that’s not too difficult to achieve, is it?Enhanced by Zemanta