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This is 'the business'. You're standing in it!

Kevin Noonan, research director, public sector, at Ovum | May 14, 2014
The old corporate stovepipes are starting to break down, says Kevin Noonan of Ovum. So how is this impacting the role of the CIO?

I recently met with a corporate CEO who remarked with some frustration, "I don't know why all our IT people talk about IT, as if it is somehow separate from the business".... "How can our company become more innovative, if we keep on building these barriers between people in the same organisation"?

Some old slogans need to be quietly consigned to the rubbish bin
There was a time when it was seen as a good idea to differentiate IT from the business. The basic rationale was sound. IT does not exist for its own sake, but delivers outcomes to support the business. Managers, responsible for business lines, need to call the shots to ensure IT remains well aligned. For many years, business alignment was seen as a key objective for IT managers. It was measured through surveys and became a key performance indicator written into many IT job descriptions.

But sometimes, even the most well intentioned ideas can go off track. In some organisations, the differences between IT and the business turned into walls of division. Indeed, some system development methodologies continue to require specifications to be developed separately as if some invisible wall prevents managers in the same organisation from working together as equal partners. Driving better outcomes is everybody's job.

Another corporate CEO, who was just settling into his new role, met separately with each of his direct reports. In one meeting, the CEO was asked if he could just tell that meddling CIO to stop coming up with ideas about how to drive the business more efficiently. The CEO responded politely that perhaps it was time for the other senior executives to come up with a few ideas of their own!

Today's enterprises need to relentlessly drive greater productivity and innovation. There is no place for corporate divisions.

Everybody is an IT person'
There was a time when it was common to hear managers declare, "I'm not an IT person." However generational change has delivered a very different perspective. In an age of smartphones, apps and social networking, everybody is an IT person.

Technology pervades our personal lives and corporate operations. Technology is now part of the basic fabric of the business. In an earlier study across New Zealand and Australia, Ovum conducted a series of one-on-one interviews with CIOs from various sized organisations.

However, innovation is a risky undertaking. There is a temptation to go for big projects with big potential savings. Feedback indicates this is the wrong approach. Big agendas can meet fierce resistance from entrenched positions. It is easy to become bogged down with internal squabbles. The better approach is to focus on quick wins and quickly harvest the savings.


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