After several years of tight budgets and mothballed projects, chief executives are turning again to IT to attain cost efficiencies and competitive advantage. However, having been burnt before, business leaders are unlikely to accept the escalating costs and time delays associated with IT developments in the past.
This summer, corporate France was shaken by a surprise bestseller celebrating the art of surviving in a professional environment with the least effort possible - Bonjour Paresse, a guide to slacking and how to get away with it. This attitude can flourish during quiet periods and needs to be eradicated to make the most of the upturn.
The IT director has a major challenge to ensure personnel are working at full productivity, not embracing the lessons of Bonjour Paresse, and demonstrating to the board that skills are used at full efficiency.
This is not to say that IT personnel are more prone to slacking than those in the marketing or finance departments. However, the culture of IT development has changed over the past few years - most notably with the increasing threat of lower-cost offshore outsourcing - and IT departments are under greater pressure to show value for money.
One of the major barriers to making informed decisions about skill allocation and project status is the IT director's inability to inform the business of the status of specific projects in any meaningful way.
The project-driven nature of IT and the fragmented nature of the work it carries out make it extremely difficult for an IT manager to be aware of the workload and performance of all the employees within their department.
This means that information on project status and resources still remains within group silos, providing no central view. Hence the IT director is reliant upon time-consuming and inaccurate spreadsheets to juggle project demands and effective collaboration is virtually impossible.
One improvement that could be instigated would be for line managers to be cognisant of the needs of their IT director and for effective reporting structures to be introduced, but this still leaves margin for human error.
A better option would be to combine timesheets with existing software, possibly the same used to manage projects, giving a clear view of work within the IT department.
This also provides an excellent platform for setting individual performance targets that can be monitored and measured across different projects, ensuring productivity objectives are achieved and potential slackers identified.
Barry Muir is managing director at Innate Management Systems