IT no longer viewed in isolation, say UK CIOs

IT departments are now more closely aligned to the rest of the business than ever before, a survey of more than 100 heads of IT...

IT departments are now more closely aligned to the rest of the business than ever before, a survey of more than 100 heads of IT in UK companies claims.

 

The research, from CIO Connect, revealed that four out of five chief information officers agree, or agree to some extent, that IT spending approval is largely subject to the same processes as other business projects, marking a shift from the days of the dotcom boom and bust.

 

There is now more collaboration on IT projects, the survey found, with three-quarters of respondents agreeing that senior business colleagues are closely involved in managing significant implementations.

 

“The gap between IT and other parts of the business, which has been a feature of business for so long, is now finally closing,” the report said. “In more and more businesses, IT is ceasing to be something separate that has to be treated differently, and is instead becoming an integral part of business change.”

 

Robin Barrett, senior vice president technology at American Express, said the trend was not necessarily caused by the economic slowdown.

 

“I think we are seeing a maturity of the decision of investment in IT,” he said. “It is being regarded as another type of business investment, like advertising and promotion, or product development. There is a demystification of IT investment and an increasing knowledge of the advantages and disadvantages.”

 

According to Barrett, there is now a coalescing of the CIOs and the business leaders.

 

“CIOs are now much more knowledgeable about business - they are leaders in their own right, making the case for investment, actively involved in promoting IT investment.”

 

Chris White, IT director of international law firm Ashurst, agreed that links are getting closer.

 

“I would never allow an IT project unless there is a business sponsor,” he said. “The technology will fail unless with think about the business around it. IT directors are business managers, not technical managers. Every IT director should have an MBA, or the same understanding that it brings.”

 

IT professionals wanting to make it to CIO should look for experience outside the IT department, preferably in running a profit-and-loss business unit, before coming back into IT, Barrett said.

 

He said as IT and business understood each other better, there is more joint responsibility and ownership of projects could improve return on investment.

 

CIO views

 

"We are using the downturn as an opportunity to invest in new channels and reduce the cost base."

Angelo Grasso, IT director, AAH Pharmaceuticals.

 

"My CEO has a very good understanding of what IT can do for the business, but he is not a bits and bytes man, nor should he be."

Margaret Smith, director of business technology and delivery, Legal and General.

 

"I have inherited a relationship with a suppliers that hinders the delivery of service. My challenge is to improve the relationship to mutual benefit."

Peter Ford, director of IT, Housing Corporation

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