CXO

CIO Jury: Give IT a seat on the board

Trying to stitch IT on later is simply too late, say tech execs...

Businesses are putting their balance sheet and strategic direction at risk by failing to involve IT executives in boardroom strategy discussions, according to leading UK IT chiefs.

Research out this week shows that just one in 14 of Europe's biggest companies has a CIO or equivalent position on the board, and IT bosses say this is symptomatic of the view of the IT function as a cost centre rather than something that can provide competitive advantage.

silicon.com's 12-strong CIO Jury IT director user panel voted almost unanimously in favour of the CIO having a seat in the boardroom and being involved in high-level business strategy discussions. Just one disagreed.

Frank Coyle, IT director at John Menzies Distribution, said making key decisions in the boardroom without vital input from IT is evidence of a disconnect between the business and IT and one of the main reasons for the failure of wider strategic business initiatives.

Coyle said: "Ensuring that they connect immediately and successfully drive these initiatives begins in the boardroom. Trying to stitch IT on later is simply too late."

Having a CIO on the board of directors is the only way to ensure the IT function is fully engaged in business strategy, according to Phil Young, head of IT at Amtrak Express Parcels.

He said: "I have found from past and present experience that the IT function either delivers key business objectives or is an integral part in defining them. A company's strategic direction and balance sheet can be made or broken by poor IT engagement."

Luke Mellors, IT director at The Dorchester Hotel, said businesses will find it difficult to get value from their IT without CIO representation on the board.

He said: "Business today must start looking at IT as more then a cost centre if they are to compete and this current pervasive attitude is why so much money is wasted on misguided IT projects and initiatives that do not deliver.

"And that is the bottom line – start driving the value of IT or it will cost you."

But Les Boggia, head of IT at insurance firm Carole Nash, said the issue is not so much about having a seat on the board as having influence and allies at board level.

"In my case," he said, "I report to the CFO

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