Help the business get a sense of direction

Successful IT depends on effective coordination

As one who has undergone the challenges of migrating diverse data sources, I am all too aware that data migration is a business issue, as well as a technical challenge. However, getting the business and IT to share the problem, as some experts recommend, is easier said than done.

In many enterprises such a cosy, amicable position is as likely as a flying pig, and instead there is classic finger pointing.

 

The business often believes, sometimes reasonably, that it reached the point where it had to develop its own, often niche, systems because IT had been unable to do it for them. Reasons for this will range from lack of timely resources to the high cost of developing applications that have to fit within the enterprise’s central infrastructure and data model.

 

The business may have been unable to justify high expenditure on an IT system to fit in with the enterprise’s environment, whereas it felt it could cobble together a cheap and cheerful application of its own using Microsoft Access or Excel.

 

Causes of misalignment

This approach can be symptomatic of either weak IT governance, a misunderstanding of the long-term cost implications, or that forward plans and IT policies are unclear or not cascaded through the enterprise.

 

This leads to the broader issue of the perceived importance of the IT department within the business. With IT being as fundamental to an enterprise as it is, the CIO must be in a position to have peer influence with the heads of all the core business functions, which is logically at board level.

 

This confers the CIO with the seniority and clout to ensure that uncoordinated solutions, which can lead to issues such as migrating diverse sets of data back into the enterprise model, are restricted in the first place.

 

Total cost of ownership

Development of any IT solution ideally requires the total cost of ownership to be understood and factored into the planning. This includes the when and how of decommissioning technical solutions, along with what happens to the associated data.

 

The latter can be difficult to plan, bearing in mind that plans can change, but it nevertheless must be managed.

 

As a member of the board, the CIO can influence board members of the core business areas to communicate to those managers contemplating ill-considered developments that unless there is truly no impact on the company’s core business, they will be given short shrift and will have to pick up the bill for subsequent corrective action.

 

This will be eased if those managers who sponsor unauthorised developments are fully informed of the company’s business direction so that it encourages them to only consider solutions that support it.

 

Alan Smith started his career as a programmer with ICL and has since worked on a wide range of IT projects.

Read more on IT for small and medium-sized enterprises (SME)

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