UKtech50: John Harris on the role of IT leaders in the UK IT economy

Computer Weekly has launched the second annual UKtech50, the definitive list of the real movers and shakers in UK IT - the CIOs, industry executives, public servants and business leaders driving the creation of a high-tech economy. The UKtech50 list will be decided by a judging panel representing every area of the UK IT profession – and this year we also asked readers to vote on who they think should top the list.

The judging panel has been chosen to represent different perspectives within IT – so each individual is acting both as an impartial and expert judge, as well as an advocate for their area of interest.

In this UKtech50 video, judge John Harris gives his views on the state of UK IT and the role of IT leaders in the UK economy.


Read the full transcript from this video below:

UKtech50: John Harris on the role of IT leaders in the UK IT economy

John Harris: I think, in current economic times we are looking for any
success story. It may not always feel like it, but actually,
technology is still a pretty vibrant place to be, and there
is still a lot of opportunity. I do not know the UK figures,
but I heard the US employment figures the other day,
and with an employment rate of somewhere between
9% and 15%, actually in technology unemployment
was only at about 3%. That shows you that even in
tough times, there is opportunity there. I think it is
one for the future. I think this is an industry which may
take many different forms, it may be that a lot of the roles
are in consumer IT, rather than in business IT, but there
is no doubt that technology is a future powerhouse for
the UK economy, no doubt at all.

I think those have changed over recent years. I think
what we really need now is a level of vision. I think we
do need IT leaders who can see the future and see how
technology is likely to adapt, and see where the opportunities lie.
The reason that I say that is things are moving so rapidly,
so obviously not everyone is going to have a crystal ball
and have the ability to know exactly what the next gadget is,
but I think a really good leader will have the mindset to be
curious, to enquire, to look, learn, and understand from market
trends, in both the consumer world and the business world,
and figure out where the opportunities are. A few years ago
I might have said just flawless execution. I think that is still
important, but that vision is critical, as well.

I think the second thing that every technology leader needs
to have is the ability to articulate what some of these changes
mean, and sometimes it gets lost. I know in business, it took
.us a little while to recognize the significance of the iPad.
If we had really been on our game, every sales force should
have been cuing up to source the iPad and use it as the perfect
detail aid. We did not quite get there, because I think we did not
necessarily see how significant it was going to be, and part of
that may be even those who could see the change, did not quite
articulate it in a way that excited business customers. I think it is
those two things. I think the new traits for IT leadership are vision
characterized curiosity, openness and broad thinking, and the
ability to explain and articulate what the opportunity is. All of the
other traits that have been important do not go away, good service,
good execution and good technology are still important,
but those are the standout two.

I think it is important anyway, because these are people who
are making a huge contribution and a huge difference to
their industries, to their spheres of work, and to the economy.
More than that, I am troubled sometimes that as a country,
as a society we are not excited enough by technology,
and I do not think we recognize just how important it is,
and just how good Britain is at technology and the contribution
we can make. I would like kids at school and folks at universities
to be excited by this and to think, 'I want to be one of those
50 people. I want to be to have a crew that takes me into
technology in the UK.' I think we should be attracting some
of the future cream and talent in the UK into technology,
instead of some of more traditional professions. Stories
like this and lists like this are part of just promoting and
telling that story. In my mind, I do not necessarily mind
exactly who the 50 are and what order they are in.
What is important is when you read the whole list,
you can go,

'Wow. That really is an impact happening here and there
are some pretty special folks on the list doing special
things and I want to be a part of it.'

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