City University's Andrew Tuson on helping IT leaders to develop their skills and experience

The IT department is changing as the use of outsourcing and external providers grows, and the traditional IT career routes are disappearing. Similarly, the skills required of a CIO are evolving as technology changes. What will the IT department of the future look like, and what skills will IT leaders need to be successful?


City University London has launched a Master of Information Leadership course designed to develop the next generation of IT leaders. Computer Weekly editor in chief Bryan Glick talked to course director Andrew Tuson about the role of universities in helping IT leaders to develop their skills and experience.

Read the full transcript from this video below:

City University's Andrew Tuson on helping IT leaders to develop their skills and experience

Bryan Glick: Hello, and welcome to the CW500 Club. We are
here tonight with Andrew Tuson. Andrew is the Course Director,
‘Master of Information Leadership,’ at City University in London
and Andrew has been talking to our audience of CIOs and IT leaders
tonight about some of the challenges around leadership skills and
information leadership skills within the CIO community.

Andrew thank you very much for coming on tonight, very good to
see you here. First question to you, a relatively easy one, but
perhaps with a complex answer. What is the state of IT leadership
skills in the UK at the moment? Are we doing well, are we doing badly?  
What is the state of the nation?

Andrew Tuson: I think that the problem is not so much what the current
level of skills is, but it is that the role has been changing, and it is ability
to adapt to change which I think is the difficulty. To a certain extent, we
are getting a buy OK, at the moment; we are able to serve out the client
industries that we are supporting in the IT industry, for example. The
difficulty, I think, comes is, can we actually get out of the mindset that
we are currently in? I think that there is, and what I was talking about
was there were problems with the mindset we are in right now, about
how we think about skills, which is going to stop us moving towards the

Bryan Glick: What are the problems in that mindset? What are those
problems, and what do CIOs need to do to address that problem?

Andrew Tuson: I think the first part is that we actually, in this area, got
a sufficiently sophisticated conversation about skills. For example, one
of the things people often talk to me about is the debate around the CIO
must understand the business, et cetera. To a certain extent, yes. If we
actually had the maturity, I would say that should be a given, to an extent.
Once we then talk more about what the CIOs need to know in the senior IT
stuff, we then start really talking about they must know specific things. They
must do things like PRINCE2 or TOGAF, for example, and these have their
place. One of the dangers and one of the things I think we keep doing in the
IT industry is we keep industrializing our skills, we commoditize it, and we
make it widespread. To a certain extent, we actually then diminish the value
of the professionals that are working there, while they are necessarily trying
to build up such a much better higher value professionals.

Another point I would probably also make is that I think one of the reasons
why we got ourselves in this situation is that probably, you could say that
we have all actually vested interests, that all the players have had a
certain invested interest in doing things a certain way, and that is just
preventing us moving, and that is everybody's fault. It is the fault of the
IT industry, in terms of its commitment to develop the skills and staff
development. It is a problem of universities because they tend to focus
on certain types of research and the IT industry has gone off in a different
direction. It is the fault of government who funds the universities that behave
like that, and so on and so forth.

Bryan Glick: A bit of a never ending cycle up to a certain extent. Essentially
what you said there about universities and business schools, in other
professions, in business, in finance, and other areas like that, it is fairly
common acknowledge that one of the ways to develop skills is to go to
business schools and do courses, and so forth. Historically, there has
been less of that in IT. What do you think universities like yours can do
to try and help CIOs to address those problems?

Andrew Tuson: I think the core difficulty that universities have got
themselves into in the IT area is that we have, partly because of the
type of research we have funded today, which is very technological
and theoretical, is we have actually forgot that the IT industry has
moved from being a provider of technical services to a provider of
business services using technology. The solution then is that information
leaders are facing is not necessarily the ability to handle the heights of
technology, but it is also the business of understanding information as a
commodity. Understand business, issues of psychology, and issues of
social science. We need to then think about higher level parts of the IT
industry while necessarily focusing on producing undergraduate and
Masters Students into entry level software development roles, which will
increase the under pressure from off shoring.

Bryan Glick: What would, to give you an opportunity to plug your own role,
what is City University in particular doing about it?

Andrew Tuson: This year we are putting our first intake to a new course
which is Master of Information Leadership. The aspiration of The Master
of Information Leadership is to take senior ambitious talented senior IT
professionals with myself and David Chen, who is a former CIO, and to
actually give them a very broad education, in terms of the disciplines they
cover, they are very focused on the challenges that CIOs face. It is not an
MBA, an MBA is a very good product for producing generous managers, and
there are lots of excellent MBAs among, in the Business’ School, in the city.
What we do provide, however, is something that is focused on saying, ‘If
you were a Senior IT Manager how would you make it to CIO? What do you
need to think about?’ That is not just necessarily understanding delivery
aspects or just project management services, management strategy, but
also wider issues such as social science and the sociology of information,
because we need to stop being technocrats, and we need to actually make
our own role in civil society.

I think if there is one criticism, I will supposedly say to the CIO community right
now, is that the CIO community is very good at communicating amongst itself.
Where I think it is missing a trick is communicating out to one's society, and CIOs
as information leaders have a lot that this society needs to listen to. I think we
need to help prepare people intellectually for those public debates and to
encourage that type of debate and universities are good at that.

Bryan Glick: That is very good and interesting, Andrew. Good luck with the course,
it sounds very interesting, I am sure it will go well. Thank you very much for coming
along to CW500 tonight, very good to hear  from you. That is all we got time for this
interview now. Thank you very much for watching, and I look forward to talking to you
in another CW500 interview soon. Bye.

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