The gap between IT and business departments is growing, and the IT industry urgently needs people who can unite them to improve project success rates. That was the message from the inaugural meeting of a new BCS specialist group formed to push for such a change.
The Business-IT Interface specialist group now expects to forge ahead at its second event this month.
The interest shown in the group underlines the importance of the issue, according to founders Christine Ashton, systems director at chemicals manufacturer Octel, and Ruth Wallsgrove, managing director of consultancy SFK Technology.
"We were absolutely delighted, not only at the turnout for the initial meeting in Stoke on Trent, but also at the huge number of other people who showed interest," Wallsgrove says.
The group aims to promote the need for people who understand both IT and business, and encourage individuals and industry to see this role as a career in its own right. The group wants to put together a formal definition and job description and draw up programmes of suggested training and experience.
"Some organisations already have what are called hybrid managers, but one clear point from our first meeting was that these are generally seen as people with experience of both business and IT," Wallsgrove says. "But, as one participant put it, being a good bridge between business and IT is not just a case of training in both areas but also of training and experience in actually being a bridge."
Ashton agrees. "This vital role is often underestimated and the skills involved are poorly developed," she says. "It was felt at the meeting that the situation is probably getting worse, not better, with IT risking becoming more of a ghetto."
Wallsgrove adds, "It was also agreed that the problem doesn't solely lie with IT - many organisations are naive about the process of developing IT."
The group is already working on compiling a database of project failures, setting up a Web site and organising a major event in the spring. It also has an e-mail discussion list set up.