Opinion: Reclaim your rightful role as enabler in the business

As IT leaders, it is entirely our choice as to whether we lead our departments in cost-saving or in real, measurable profit...

As IT leaders, it is entirely our choice as to whether we lead our departments in cost-saving or in real, measurable profit enablers. And that decision must be made with care, as it will determine our personal future, that of our team, and that of our organisations.

Sadly, there exists a school of thought that believes we must do no more than save costs. There are three main reasons why this thinking must not prevail:
  • We have been seen by our boards as a cost and a liability for too long - and it has not worked, in reality or in image


  • Chief executives are screaming out for more business focus from us, which is why more than a third of new IT directors and chief information officers come from a non-IT background - and that figure is growing


  • Many case studies show that IT can be a sound business ally and driver.


How we are seen is up to us. And haven't we worked hard on our negative image.

Take projects. Twenty years ago, I attended a BCS event and learned that four out of 10 IT projects failed to meet the needs of their organisation, cost too much, were late or failed altogether. I will never forget the rallying cry that we must change that figure, and we have - it's now nine out of 10.

Take image. We invented the term "the business", as if it is some separate commodity from what we do.

Take humour. What do the letters CIO stand for? Career is Over. The sad thing is that we, in IT, invented that joke.

Take jargon. The IT community is notorious for using terms that mean nothing to most people. Ask your chief executive his opinion on "thin clients".

How finance directors would laugh - as we have hardly saved any costs over the past 10 years. How chief executives would cry - only we would doubt our self-worth.

And if you believe IT is simply a cost-cutter, and not a real business enabler, please don't tell easyJet, or Sony, or Tesco, or Amazon, or hundreds of other organisations.

For too long we have been dismissed as simply a "tool". This image, whether justified or not, has not served us well. If we do what we have always done, we will get what we have always got. So if we want to be seen differently, we have to do differently.

And that begins with ambition. Where is the excitement, the passion, of existing to save money?

It is time to choose. What happens next is up to all of us.

If we are to be no more than cost savers, we may as well give up and go home. I urge you all: reclaim your career, reignite your teams, and, most importantly, play an active, frontline role in reinventing your organisations.

David Taylor is president of IT directors organisation Certus
This was last published in October 2002

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