In the first of an occasional series of interviews with leading IT directors, David Taylor asks Chris Rawson, general manager, IT services at Lloyd's of London, how geared up organisations are for the future, and what IT directors should do to ensure their businesses stay successful.
DT: With Y2K behind us, what challenges are organisations now facing?
CR: I see little sign of the pace of technological evolution slowing. The almost daily innovations and their threat to traditional business models are putting enormous pressure on IT directors, their teams, and the businesses they support. The challenges they now face are extraordinary. The Internet is king, and global distribution channels are opening up on a scale and at a speed never seen in IT.
DT: Do you think IT directors and CEOs are focused on the need for change?
CR: Increasingly so, yes. However, the dilemma for both IT directors and corporate executives is what their future business models will look like. Will they lose market share to new entrants who are more agile and able to deploy technology to devastating effect? Can they adapt or replace their current processes and IT systems quickly enough to survive in an unpredictable world?
Volatile though it may be, the dotcom revolution has starkly demonstrated that whether you are in retailing, financial services, utilities, or any other industry sector, you are not exempt from the threat to your traditional market. The urgency for action must not be underestimated.
DT: So how should the IT director and his executive colleagues tackle this uncertain future?
CR: This new world demands a new approach and the mobilisation of corporate resources at the highest level. The IT director must build an agenda for change with the CEO and create a new corporate team, comprising the best people from the organisation, from all disciplines, with the mandate to challenge existing business models and develop new ones.
It must be creative and experiment with new approaches, learning from other players or industry sectors, and deliver solutions quickly.
DT: The e-world has few experts and limited experience. Where will the resources be found?
CR: To develop the new technical and business skills needed takes time. The building of commercial risk/reward relationships with suppliers, to supplement internal resources, is a far faster way to achieve momentum and deliver results quickly. Such relationships might be with ASP businesses, platform and infrastructure suppliers, Web designers, and so on, and their engagement must establish a formidable force for change.
DT: What skills will equip IT directors for survival in the new age?
CR: As well as drawing on skills from their past, the future IT directors, or equivalent, will be adaptable and highly collaborative individuals with their peers in other disciplines.
They will have a strong relationship with their CEO and the leadership qualities to build fluid and multi-talented teams drawn from within and outside their organisations. They will be commercially astute and capable of managing the diverse cultures among many partnering organisations.
David Taylor's Inside Track. A provocative insight into the world of IT in business, is out now. The book is the latest in the Computer Weekly Professional Series, published by ButterworthHeinemann: 01865-888180