Network Rail CIO seeks business-literate IT workers

Network Rail's CIO, Susan Cooklin, has told a group of IT leaders her biggest challenge lies in increasing the business literacy of her IT staff.

Network Rail's CIO, Susan Cooklin, has told a group of IT leaders that one of her biggest challenges lies in increasing the business literacy of her IT staff.

Speaking to CIOs at a meeting of Computer Weekly's 500 Club, Cooklin said Network Rail needed people who combined technical and business skills to drive the business forward: "One of the main challenges is getting business-literate, finance-literate individuals who understand what the business is about, and getting people aligned with the priorities of Network Rail."

"I think we need business/technology hybrids. The problem is that they are difficult to find, though not impossible. We do need people who are really good at technology, but the more you can get hybrids involved the better."

Cooklin, who took over as CIO in late 2009, is responsible for a £1bn IT transformation programme aimed at modernising Britain's railways.

The project will see Network Rail upgrading and rationalising its complex portfolio of IT systems, including train systems, business applications and asset management platforms.

Building close links between the IT department and the rest of the business is essential if the work is to deliver results, she said.

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The trouble with Cooklin's proposal is; the staff she'll employ to effectively run a complex business like Network Rail will be diluted individuals without the necessary skills in specialist areas to effectively deliver projects the business actually wants - or more to the point, actually needs.  Her new 'hybrid' recruits will be so generic, that ultimately Netwrok Rail will eventually spend more time and more money delivering solutions to it's customer that won't be competitive in the market place.  The 'customer' will eventually bypass Cooklins function and seek suppliers who are better value for money.