Strategy Clinic: your IT management questions answered

Experts from Cranfield School of Management, Dominic Barrow, Ernst & Young, Henley Management College, NCC Group and The Corporate IT Forum offer solutions to IT directors' dilemmas

In Computer Weekly's Strategy Clinic, our panel of experts offer solutions to IT directors' management dilemmas. Read their advice by clicking on the questions below.

The panel: British Computer Society Elite Group, Cranfield School of Management, Dominic Barrow, Ernst & Young, Henley Management College, NCC Group, The Corporate IT Forum.


Legislation and regulation

What post-crisis regulation for the financial services sector? >>
I am a CIO in financial services. We all know that a new wave of post-crisis regulation is heading our way. What is it likely to look like? And what should we be looking for from our suppliers? Solution >>


Business continuity

What is the most effective way to test disaster recovery plans? >>
Our disaster recovery plan works in theory. I would like to be sure it works in practice. We have tested parts of it but the tests bear little resemblance to how a real crisis would affect us. Can the panel advise where the greatest vulnerabilities lie in continuity planning and how to test the plan thoroughly? Solution >>


Business value and ROI

How do I emphasise the importance of IT during a downturn? >>
One can not get away from talk of a slowdown or even recession this year. As a senior IT manager in financial services, what should I emphasise about how IT can support the business through this period? I am used to saying, 'technology is increasingly the business in our sector', but I am wary of what might seem to be the arrogance of that. How should I temper its case in these difficult economic circumstances? Solution >>

How should I prioritise metrics to demonstrate the business value of IT? >>
I have always believed in 'doing' rather than self-monitoring, but reluctantly agree that the IT department needs to provide meaningful metrics on its activities. We have no shortage of things to measure, but how do we decide which are the most effective use of our time and energy? Solution >>

Can compliance be more than just an admistrative burden? >> 
I am an IT director in the financial services industry. I would like to make compliance with burgeoning regulation more than a box-ticking exercise, but my gut feeling is that all the talk of using compliance to improve business efficiency is just spin. Am I missing a trick or is red tape just that and nothing more? Solution >>

Why has control been handed over to the finance director? >>
As head of IT I have always had a great deal of autonomy and feel that my department has provided an excellent service while staying within budget. I have been told that an IT finance function is to be set up under the aegis of the finance director to track the value of IT services and projects in purely financial terms. Am I right to see this as unrealistic and a betrayal of trust? Solution >>


Career development

My CIO job sidelined after merger - what should I do?
I'm the UK CIO of a multinational company whose headquarters has been in the US since the company was taken over several years ago. I feel that my role has been steadily gutted of substance since the 'merger' took place. Essentially I don't feel trusted by my American boss. Although I don't disagree with the IT strategy driven by the US, I do feel that I might as well not be here. What should I do? Solution>>

Can an MBA help me secure a senior management role? >> 
I am a 32 year old IT professional who manages a small team of business analysts. I was recruited straight from university with a maths degree. I feel I have done everything I can to advance my career within IT and would like to move into a senior management role. I have the opportunity to apply for funding for an executive master of business administration. Should I take it? Solution >>

How do I optimise relations with the chief executive? >>
A management restructure means that I now report direct to our chief executive. This is not a change I sought as I still feel more comfortable as a provider of technical services. I feel exposed but also wish to make the most of my new position in the hierarchy. Should I ask the CEO for mentoring in the ways of business, or just bluff it out until I feel more at ease? Solution >>

Have I failed if I am not a board member? >>
I keep reading about how IT directors should be seeking a place on the board. I am not unambitious and I value having influence, but in career terms I feel I have reached a plateau I am happy with. If I chose not to climb any higher up the corporate ladder, does this mean my only way is down? Solution >>

How do you stop your outsourcing suppliers poaching the best talent? >>
I work for a large retailer. We do a lot of work with outsourcing suppliers and consultancies. A consistent problem is that these suppliers tend to poach our brightest staff. Their pockets are deeper than ours. How do we retain our best people and also keep our suppliers sweet? Solution >>


Mergers & acquisitions

My CIO job sidelined after merger - what should I do?
I'm the UK CIO of a multinational company whose headquarters has been in the US since the company was taken over several years ago. I feel that my role has been steadily gutted of substance since the 'merger' took place. Essentially I don't feel trusted by my American boss. Although I don't disagree with the IT strategy driven by the US, I do feel that I might as well not be here. What should I do? Solution>>

How could we have avoided acquisition licensing sting? >>
My company has acquired a rival business. We do not intend to change any IT systems as yet, but one software supplier has written with a demand for payment for changing the terms of the licence. We are taking legal advice, but how could we have foreseen this and how do we avoid it in the future? Solution >>


People management

How can I create harmony between the iPod generation and older IT managers? >>
I am concerned about the generation gap in our IT department. I and my three closest colleagues are in our fifties. Most of the other staff are in their twenties and seem to have little interest in long-term career development. Virtually all of them listen to iPods while they work, which doesn't help staff communication. Should I try to adopt a "younger" approach or ban the iPods and get tough? Solution >>

How do I break down the divide between IT staff and end-users? >>
My 10-strong IT team has good technical skills, but their poor personal interaction with users is creating a "them and us" divide. How can I help develop "soft" skills in the team? Can you really train someone in effective personal relations? Solution >>

How can I make users supply quality data? >>
The IT team has been criticised over our customer relationship management software. But the real problem is the quality of the data supplied by users. How do we make users understand the importance of data quality, especially that supplying old data created for other purposes is not appropriate? Solution >>

Where will I find tomorrow's IT director? >>
I am only a few years away from retirement and the board recently asked me about succession planning. I see some very competent people around me, but none who seem to be rounded in all the skills required. What should I do next? Solution >>

How can I curb the board's blue-sky fantasies? >>
Board members keep coming to me with ideas for systems and technologies they have seen in the media. I feel they think I am being undynamic when I point out why they would be inappropriate. How can I explain that these "blue-sky" articles are better described as "pie in the sky"? Solution >>



How do I set IT strategy post-outsourcing? >>
Our government organisation's IT department is about to be outsourced. We have retained an in-house team to look after IT security issues, manage the relationship, including service levels, and guide IT strategy. How should this type of function work, specifically as regards the IT strategy? Solution >>

How do I get customer satisfaction with an outsourced IT helpdesk? >>
We have outsourced our IT helpdesk to India, and our end-users constantly complain at town-hall meetings to executives. How should I position this when I next present to our UK board? The IT director responsible for the project now has an executive position in the company in another region. Solution >>


Project management

How do I get an effective voice on projects? >>
I am a project manager working on a major update of our CRM database, but the sales team keep changing their requirements. We are three months behind schedule. All the shots are called by the head of IT, sales director and managing director. How do I gain an effective voice in the matter? Solution >>



How do I get management to help enforce a data security policy? >>
Our managing director fails to understand the importance of an effective data security policy across the company. How do I get her to understand that security is not simply a technology issue but one that she needs to be seen to be putting her influence behind? Solution >>

How can we spread the security message? >>
We in the IT department are confident we have sufficient technology-based defences in our network and are keen to develop a 'security culture' among company staff. The workforce is spread across several locations in the UK and abroad. We have sent out e-mails about the various threats but are not convinced these are taken notice of. How can we get our message across most effectively? Solution >> 


Supplier management

How do I get a supplier to agree to a global corporate deal?
I am an IT director and a member of our multinational company's IT directors council. Several of our major US-based international suppliers insist on making national deals and business unit deals rather than agreeing to a global corporate deal, which would be more cost effective for us. Any tips on how to negotiate hard to get what we want? Solution >>

Draw on Computer Weekly's panel of experts to solve your problem. E-mail your questions to [email protected]

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