The difference between IT directors and chief information officers is that the IT director asks for a budget and bats for IT, whereas the CIO, on the board, debates whether to upgrade IT or open a new branch office. That was the distinction presented by headhunter Cathy Holley at revamped user group Certus' recent inaugural...
conference on IT leadership. Certus, an independent membership organisation for IT leaders recently acquired by the National Computing Centre, was relaunched at the event with a revised mission to guide IT leaders through the transition by providing access to a unique leadership development programme. "Top CIOs spend two days a week on technology and governance and the rest of the time running the company if they are on the board," said Holley. "The best CIOs have something intelligent to say on every topic and are not afraid to speak up. But they need a brilliant service delivery person and technical people to free them up." Conference speakers urged the more than 100 senior IT decision-maker delegates to adopt a new transformational agenda if they want to further their careers. Traditional approaches to IT career development are not going to equip future IT leaders with the skills and business savvy they need to compete for board posts. David Taylor, president of Certus, said, "For too long there has been a them-and-us confrontation at board level. There is the 'business' and the 'IT department' and never the twain shall meet. That is not helpful for the business or the IT function. "It is time for a transformation. Certus will help IT leaders to improve their skills, experience and business savvy to take their place in positions of influence." The Certus mission is to provide breakthrough leadership to its members to help them to become transformational business leaders; realise the business benefit of IT for their organisations; and assist their personal development.
Coping with deadlines from hell
At the NCC conference, Gerry Pennell, IT director of the Manchester 2002 Commonwealth Games, set out five guidelines for getting projects in on time:
- Time box your programmes - it limits building complexity into the design phase
- Be prepared to lead - IT has the longest time scales in an integrated projects so don't be passive
- Retain ownership of the systems - don't rely on any one supplier's products, ensure sufficient granularity for rapid change
- Be a service broker - manage suppliers and have an integration, not development, mindset. But don't underestimate how many developers you will need
- Get out of the way of people - stay out of the detail.