Chief information officers must innovate to stay relevant
Article from: SMH / IT Pro
Technology chiefs must come up with new ways to solve business problems or risk becoming irrelevant as more non-tech executives press ahead with their own technology decisions.
With more than 30 per cent of IT budgets now being controlled by business units rather than IT departments, and with two thirds of chief or "C-level" executives and business leaders saying they can make technology decisions better and faster without the involvement of IT departments, CIOs and their departments must turn their mind to innovation to remain relevant. Those are the conclusions from the latest survey of 1000 C-level executives, business unit leaders, and IT decision makers.
Jeyan Jeeveratnam, country manager Australia for IT consultancy Avanade which commissioned the report, told the Sydney Morning Herald that business units taking control of IT had led to a downgrading of the chief information officer role in some organisations but this had been countered by the realisation that CIOs, and IT, could play a much more strategic role in a company.
"Three years ago there was definitely a downgrade of the CIO role happening and that forced the CIOs to rethink their roles," he said. "Today CIOs realise they need to get on with the game, that they are a strategic imperative to the business and they can be a differentiator. I think CIOs have a great opportunity to transform themselves and transform the departments and businesses going forward."
Jeeveratnam reiterated long-standing advice for CIOs in companies that are trying to control IT spending and striving to marry their knowledge of IT with the issues faced by the business. "CIOs need to come to the table with innovative ideas. What CEOs are looking for is innovation. If CIOs can come with smart ideas to solve business problems then they are going to get the buy-in from the business units. Secondly, they need to figure out ways to make it easier for the internal users and external partners to do business. User experience makes a big difference," Mr Jeeveratnam said.
"The question is: how many CIOs will be willing to take up the responsibility and the challenge? I would say 60 to 65 per cent will do so and make the transformation but there's always going to be 30 per cent or so who won’t and in two or three years time they really won't have a role to play."
To successfully ride the wave of change, Jeeveratnam said lower ranked IT professionals would need to move out of the IT department and find IT roles in business units. "In the future the successful players will be those who rotate roles and develop new skills that help the business."
Jeeveratnam’s views are reinforced by a study published in February in the UK and commissioned by Vodafone, The New IT Crowd: the role of the IT director in simplifying complexity. It concluded: "IT is now seen as a key part of organisational innovation and transformation, rather than just being viewed as a tool for reducing costs and remaining competitive."
It said that IT professionals would need skills not traditionally associated with IT. "They need to be expert communicators, personable networkers, team players and inspiring visionaries." Some 300 senior managers working outside of IT were asked how the attributes that a successful technology professional needed to display had changed in recent years. "They believe it has become more important for IT directors to: think strategically (61 per cent); effectively collaborate with other functions (58 per cent); hone their communication skills (61 per cent); develop an understanding beyond IT - of customers (56 per cent) and business (54 per cent)."
However about 40 per cent of those surveyed said that IT had not yet risen to this challenge.