Business skills a necessity for successful CIOs
Managing director IT and telecoms
John-Paul Kamath is right to highlight the changing role of the CIO. Instead of bemoaning their fate, IT staff must look to themselves to make their mark.
It is not sufficient for aspiring CIOs to have a firm grasp of the role's technical aspects. Our clients increasingly demand that C-suite level candidates demonstrate their soft skills, such as a client-facing focus, and strong interpersonal and management skills. Most importantly though, firms want their senior IT staff to be more commercially minded. Network installation costs represent some of the largest investments companies make, and CIOs are asked to play a central role in ensuring that these investments bear fruit.
Communicating the value of IT throughout their organisation can help ensure that the role of the CIO is never undervalued.
Measure the value of IT for the business good
In response to your article on the decision made by Boots and House of Fraser to axe the role of IT director, it is now of paramount importance that CIOs "sell" the business value of their IT investments to the board.
However, CIOs face difficulties when it comes to quantifying this business value, as the majority of companies do not attribute any financial value to their technology assets in their annual accounts. As a result, many companies are pitifully unaware of the importance of their IT assets and are also not giving an accurate representation of the total value of their business.
Reversing this could have a huge impact on the role and status of the CIO, and on the company itself. Full IT asset financial valuations could make all the difference, whether the company is verifying it has the resources to acquire, or if it is fighting off an acquisition approach.
When one considers that other retailers such as M&S and Tesco are seeing year-on-year success as a result of putting technology at the heart of their strategies, it truly highlights the need to identify how to place a value on IT assets, and for this valuation to be a managed component of the business. Senior managers within IT and chief finance officers should overhaul this situation as a matter of urgency.
Without this exercise taking place, technology will never get the respect it deserves.
Governing body needed to keep information visible
Head of security and risk
The draft best practice framework for sharing personal information issued by the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) is to be welcomed, particularly as it deals with the individual's right to have access to information held about them.
Currently, members of the public seeking the information that is kept about them have to trawl through scores of organisations to request it. The ICO recommends that organisations provide a single point of contact for people wanting to access this information, and also make people aware of this facility. I believe we should go even further: individuals should be proactively notified about what information is held about them and informed whenever it changes.
As most people do not have the inclination or ability to manage this process for themselves, we will need to invent a new type of organisation to administer the creation, industry usage and maintenance of a personal data record on the public's behalf.
After all, we gave up keeping our cash under our mattresses long ago and we certainly do not process our own credit card transactions. It might sound complex to build, and security would need to be tight, but what choice do we have? Identity information is the new currency in the digital universe and we must retain control of key information.
But this initiative will not solve all the problems: consider the vast amounts of data shared by private individuals working and socialising online. In many cases this data is much more personal and sensitive than anything governments or large corporations keep on us. Ensuring the accuracy of a personal profile that has been scattered to the four corners of the world will be demanding to say the least.
Give staff time to explore their inner entrepreneur
Chief executive officer
I read with interest Julie Meyer's article on entrepreneurship and appreciated the sentiment greatly. However, I do feel that the article failed to properly address the important question of exactly how companies could create such an environment. What should companies do to allow Britain to breed more IT entrepreneurs?
The answer is simple, even if achieving it is not. A change in company culture and attitude is what is needed. Companies need to have more trust in their employees and give them more of a free rein.
There are a range of ways to do this, but one simple and effective method is to allow employees to work on personal projects within working hours by allocating "free time" slots once a week.
If, as a CEO or a CIO, "free time" makes you nervous, remember that you are supposed to be employing creative and productive employees, and something is needed to make sure that they stay this way.
It is most likely that business leaders implementing such a step will need to enforce it themselves. Giving these opportunities out does not necessarily mean they are taken up. More often than not, employees would prefer to make sure they are getting all their work done rather than make sure they are being innovative, and free time would be the first calendar entry to be cancelled if this was the case.
Businesses must start thinking this way if Britain is ever to start growing its innovation back to the level of previous years.