That was the message from confidential workshops held at the IT Directors' Forum on the cruise ship Aurora last week.
The sessions, attended by 100 IT directors and senior managers, revealed that many are hamstrung when setting IT strategy and priorities because their companies do not have defined business objectives.
Where they do have objectives these are often not stated, since key board members keep the plans close to their chests.
Workshop leader David Jacobs, consultant and former head of IT for National Power, said, "It is important that business decides priorities and makes clear decisions. The worst option is to leave business decisions to IT, which then becomes a scapegoat when things go wrong. IT can advise on options but not on investment priorities," he said.
If IT directors cannot get on to an organisation's executive board they can still exercise influence. This can be done by networking internally and getting feedback from business individuals; forming strategy groups and getting the managing director to chair them to draw in business people; and acting strategically, not tactically.
The workshops stressed the importance of the integration of IT into the overall business change process. "IT directors have to be in at the initiation," said Jacobs, "or, even better, before the initiation."
Other issues raised in the workshops, although with much lower priority, were: how to move forward with less (or no) budget; measuring performance; IT governance; cultural issues and internal communications.