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CIO Jury: IT bosses 'not isolated' from the boardroom

It's your own fault if your opinions aren't being heard, say UK IT chiefs…
silicon.com's panel of CIOs has dismissed research this week claiming IT directors are becoming more isolated than ever from the business.

The vendor-backed survey of IT executives claimed three-quarters of European IT directors are either not heard or that their opinions are not valued at board level.

But silicon.com's CIO Jury panel of UK IT chiefs voted overwhelmingly against the claim, with 10 saying 'no' they disagreed and just two saying 'yes' they agreed.

Many asserted that it is down to the leadership skills of the CIO to ensure they are heard in the boardroom and have a say in the strategic direction of the business.

David Lister, CIO at Reuters, said: "An IT leader's views are measured by the contribution they make to an enterprise's success - if they hit that mark they'll be heard, appreciated, valued and acted upon. If they don't then I'm afraid it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy."

JP Rangaswami, global CIO at investment bank Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein, said the apparent isolation is down to consolidation in most business sectors that has led to lower technology investment capacity.

"Boards had fewer - and harder - technology calls to make. The downturn also reduced historical tolerance for failure. IT has had to move from being treated as spoiled adolescents to adults, and the apparent distancing of business from IT is just a perception of that phase change."

Graham Yellowley, director of technology at Mitsubishi Securities International, agreed adding that there is still a strong link between the business and IT. "What may be happening is that IT is now so embedded within the business that there is no apparent distinction between them," he said.

IT directors do, however, risk being relegated to the role of simply being a "cost of doing business" unless they are proactive, according to Phillip Jones, CTO, easyGroup. "Now, more than ever, the CIO/IT director needs to spend as much time as possible discussing with their colleagues the challenges and opportunities facing their organisation, and thinking about how IT can respond to these," he said.

Frank Coyle, IT director at John Menzies Distribution, suggested those who feel isolated may just have to accept they are not always right. "Perhaps some of the IT Directors in the survey take exception to the fact that everyone does not always agree with what they say - that is a different issue entirely," he said.

But Gavin Whatrup, IT director at advertising agency Delaney Lund Knox Warren & Partners, said there is a tendency by the board to only notice IT when there are problems.

"This is, by definition, the effect of utility computing; no-one calls the electricity company thank them for another successful day of power provision. In effect we are the victims of our own success. If the business does not include IT in its strategic thinking then it needs to be persuaded in a language and manner they understand of IT's potential. The difficulty will be in shedding the incumbent image as a technologist," he said.

Today's CIO Jury was…

Colin Cobain, IT director, Tesco
Ian Cohen, IT director, Financial Times
Frank Coyle, IT director, John Menzies Distribution
Peter Dew, CIO, BOC
Phillip Jones, CTO, easyGroup
John Keeling, director of computer services, John Lewis Partnership
David Lister, CIO, Reuters
Dr John Odell, group IT director, BBA Group
JP Rangaswami, global CIO, Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein
Gavin Whatrup, IT director, Delaney Lund Knox Warren & Partners
Graham Yellowley, director of technology, Mitsubishi Securities International
Phil Young, head of IT operations, Amtrak

If you are a CIO, IT director or equivalent at a large or small company in the private or public sector and want to be part of silicon.com's CIO Jury pool, or you know an IT chief who should be, then drop us a line at editorial@silicon.com

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