CIOs and heads of IT need to change how their departments are perceived by the rest of the business, in order to be considered as valued contributors rather than cost centres.
In the first of a series of articles looking at the state of IT in Ireland, John McCabe, CEO of the business process technology strategy firm Prisa Consulting, believes IT is under represented on the boards of many Irish organisations.
“Look at the top 100 companies in Ireland. How many CIOs are on the main board or are considered as one of the decision-making executives of the company?” McCabe said.
Publicly available information about the composition of boards of directors in leading Irish companies doesn’t give sufficient detail about the presence or absence of IT leaders, so Prisa is planning to conduct a survey later this year to find this out.
Anecdotal evidence suggests many heads of IT in Ireland still report into the financial controller rather than directly to the CEO. It is a similar scenario in the public sector, where the Department of Finance has a huge say in technology spending.
McCabe believes the survey findings will indicate whether the IT function contributes to key strategic decisions in Irish organisations, or whether its role is simply to execute plans it played no part in formulating.
“There is a major challenge for CIOs with large organisations to be recognised as someone who is adding value to the business and driving the business forward,” he said.
How to improve perception of IT in business
McCabe suggests CIOs can take steps to improve the perception of IT by taking a partnership approach. This would involve team members being assigned to a particular division, such as sales, and attending meetings in order to gain a better understanding of the needs of that division. The IT team would then be able to suggest ways in which technology can help to resolve problems or make certain processes run faster and more efficiently.
“It is a change for the IT team and may require workshops to help bring that about and to encourage that greater level of engagement with other areas of the business,” McCabe said.
Part of the problem is the well-known communication breakdown that happens where IT and the business speak different languages. “One of the things that comes out from talking to CIOs is, the view from other parts of the organisation is: ‘our IT staff are good but they don't really understand our business’,” said McCabe.