CIO Development

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The 2007 Harvey Nash CIO Strategic Leadership Survey shows that 76 per cent of 519 CIOs surveyed believe their role has become more strategic this year and 66 per cent have already expanded their job scope. Most Heads of IT are keen to gain more responsibility and widen their remit beyond just the IT department. It also suggests bosses think IT departments need to improve their performance, and CIOs lack faith in their IT teams.

Although most CIOs believe that developing relationships with the business is important, only 18 per cent say their team is excellent at doing it, compared with 25 per cent last year. This should be unacceptable and illustrates the depth of the soft skills crisis that is taking hold in many IT functions. The IT department is still very much a technical operation, with emphasis on the practicalities of bits and bytes rather than business efficiency.

Similarly, 63 per cent of CIOs think that managing and delivering IT operations is important, but only 30 per cent believe their team is excellent at it, compared with 38 per cent last year. If this issue is not addressed, businesses could find themselves coming unstuck at the implementation level. Failure of IT projects is often blamed on cultural resistance, and this survey suggests this phenomenon is alive and well and living uncomfortably close to home. Much of the expertise CIOs are applying in project management and alignment with the business must be applied to all members of their own team to ensure cultural change also occurs in IT departments.

The role of the CIO has been developing, but the team is somewhat behind according to Simon La Fosse, head of the CIO practice at Harvey Nash. CIOs must develop the talent in their team and focus on business competencies. The gap that once existed between the business and the IT department may have been reduced, but a new one has appeared between CIOs and their teams. Changing the mindset of a whole department is a big challenge, but an important one.

Other surveys confirm that CIOs must be business and IT experts, and they must build teams to support them in both. The relationship between business and technology management is set to be transformed over the next few years, leading to fundamental changes in the role of IT director and CIO. Gartner says the IT department as we know it could be dead within five years. IT directors will begin to take on more management-focused roles in different areas of the organisation, as IT becomes more embedded in the business.

An increased concentration on business processes and outsourcing means that at least 60 per cent of IT departments will have halved their in-house workforce by 2008, compared with the average department size in 2000. Gartner forecasts that at least one-third of IT director roles will change or disappear by 2009. And the remaining CIOs will need to spend more than 50 per cent of their time on external relationships to ensure they deliver expected results.

The Harvey Nash survey suggests that fundamental changes in the role of the CIO are already taking place. There is a clear opportunity for IT directors to step up to the mark. Whether they do or not will be determined on an individual basis. The increasing commoditisation of information services means that a technology-focused IT director will have just a walk-on part to play. On the other hand, the future looks rosy for IT directors who make the shift towards business, they may be brought into the heart of the organisation.

The issue for IT directors is how to become a forward-looking CIO. It’s a big question and understanding business alignment is a big part of the answer. But in addition, taking on a chunk of the organisation that is not related to technology provision will certainly help IT directors get a better all-round sense of the business.

The integration of technology systems with organisational demands is also set to increase further, as companies search for ever-more efficient business processes. By 2009, Gartner predicts the management of business processes will supersede management of technology as the leading value contribution for more than 50 per cent of blue-chip IT teams.

Contact Brinley Platts on 07973 745 640 at CIODEVELOPMENT.COM to find out how you can engage your colleagues and team on the issues raised by this article.