IT is closing the gap with business, say CIOs

The latest Computer Weekly CIO Confidence Index survey shows that relations between IT and the business are improving

IT directors believe the communications gulf between business and IT has closed in the past year, research by Computer Weekly has revealed.

The latest CIO Index survey of 145 UK IT directors found that 94% say communication between IT and the business is improving, up from 86% a year ago. The survey also showed that 42% strongly agree that the board understands the importance of IT to the business, an increase of 10% from last year.

"There is an acceptance among CEOs that without an affinity with IT they will never really be able to think strategically about IT investments," said Kevin White, content director at IT directors forum CIO-Connect.

The CIO Index revealed 39% of IT directors strongly agreed that they feel sufficiently empowered by the board, compared with 26% in 2006. And 57% of those surveyed said IT management was getting onto a more professional footing, up from 42% a year ago.

"This is extremely good news. At last IT practitioners are being considered alongside accountants and lawyers as true professionals," said David Tidey, head of information systems at the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. "But figures are still too low. IT must try harder to win the trust of the board and other senior managers."

For a second year running, the CIO Index showed that 95% of IT directors were optimistic that IT will provide more demonstrable business value in the year to come. IT directors now have plenty of opportunities to prove the business value of IT in measurable terms without needing to resort to "spurious calculations" of soft metrics, said White.

However, David Roberts, chief executive of the Corporate IT Forum (Tif), said improved business-IT understanding did not necessarily mean more CIOs were being promoted to board level.

"In today's governance-oriented environment, the composition of boards is closely scrutinised to ensure balanced decision making, so there is not necessarily room for individual experts like CIOs. Boards are more likely to be made up of business managers with IT knowledge," he said.

Improved communication also did not necessarily mean the gap overall between business and IT was diminishing, said Roberts.

"This indicates more people are working at better communication, but it is a big increase in one of the most difficult areas of IT and more likely to reflect CIOs' expectations, rather than the perception of business managers," he said.

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