The Institute for the Management of Information Systems (Imis) is preparing a range of activities to educate board directors in how to use IT to create true business value.
That is the mission of new Imis chairman Francis Bergin, who plans to exploit his strong City pedigree to exert influence at the board level to make technology work better for the business.
In an exclusive interview with Computer Weekly, Bergin said, “I would like to see directors of companies acknowledging the importance of IT in their organisations. Very few directors go on IT courses. Not all company directors are knowledgeable about, for example, the risk management aspects of IT – loss of reputation is as great a risk as financial loss.”
Bergin is looking at what Imis can do to address this core issue, which affects IT’s business value.
“Just as main board directors are responsible for health and safety in their organisation, so every board should have a director responsible for IT,” he said, adding that he would like to work with organisations such as the Institute of Directors to raise the level of IT consciousness among directors.
Bergin has the experience and gravitas to be taken seriously by company boards. His background is a financial career with Unilever, combined with active engagement with financial bodies. He is a general commissioner of income tax, a former president of the Institute of Company Accountants, a past master of the Worshipful Company of Bakers, and a faculty member of the Chartered Institute of Marketing.
He also runs courses for company chairmen on chairmanship on behalf of the Institute of Directors, and has written two books on business communication.
He has already inaugurated a shake-up at Imis, the 9,000-strong user-oriented organisation, which through courses and accreditations promotes business value from IT.
A key move has been to make membership of the Imis board competitive, with contested elections. In addition, Philip Turnbull, chief executive of the Association of International Accountants, has recently joined the board.
Bergin plans a new information systems foundation diploma and is strengthening links with UK and overseas universities and professional institutions to align and integrate Imis courses with computing degrees. He plans to involve business heavyweights in this process.
He thinks the IT profession has too many organisations currently representing it and he does not rule out close tie-ups with other groups.
“Maybe there are too many bodies,” he said. “We are looking for a cohesion, a unified structure, and would not rule out a possible ordered amalgamation on the right terms.”
Bergin supports the concerted IT industry moves towards professionalism by the British Computer Society, the National Computing Centre, Intellect and E-Skills UK. However, he warned that professionalism requires an understanding of the end-user context and requirements.
“We want users to have confidence in those with qualifications. The problem is that once you are a part of a registered profession there are burdens for the industry it is not conscious of. You need regulatory bodies and supervisory bodies – you have to ensure you know what the ultimate user wants.”
Bergin understands this point all too well, having been chairman of the Institute of Company Accountants Disciplinary Committee.
He also believes that making IT simple to use is a corporate social responsibility issue.
“IT is still too complicated for the end-user,” he said. “We have got to make the management of information systems simple enough to enable the average person to feel IT is a tool rather than a burden. IT should be as simple as pressing the phone numbers.”
He added that the key issues were how to make computers more user-friendly and to get people to be more confident about IT.
“There has to be a more personal face in delivery and especially on managing the delivery. IT is intangible for directors but it is tangible for customers.
“The average person who runs a store in Peckham doesn’t know if their accountant is a member of a professional organisation, but it is important that they are. For the computer industry, registration must mean something.”
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