Leadership

CIO Jury: Risk and innovation key to driving IT value

'We're not just caretakers of ageing systems'
UK IT chiefs have hit back at an Accenture report released this week that claims CIOs are unwilling to take risks and are happier just being caretakers of ageing legacy systems.

Two-thirds (eight) of IT bosses in silicon.com's CIO Jury IT user panel denied that is the case and said their organisation encourages a culture of risk-taking and innovation in IT. Just a third (four) said taking risks was not appropriate for their type of business.

Jacques Rene, head of IT and projects at Airclaims, said: "Our board wants to understand and manage risks. They empower me to do so and build something new."

But the management of that risk is also important. Both Richard Rundle, IT director at BAA, and Kevin Fitzpatrick, CTO at Manpower, said they have to be calculated risks with appropriate assessment and management.

"Without some risk you can only ever be a follower not a leader," said Fitzpatrick.

John Hemingway, CIO at Sheffield Hallam University, said that while it is unwise to take risks with business critical systems, there is a need to sometimes go out on a limb.

"I firmly believe that IT should be aligned to the strategic objectives of the organisation, but sometimes we have to challenge the organisation with innovative ideas and thinking. To do this you have to be prepared to take appropriate risks," he said.

Luke Mellors, IT director at the Dorchester Hotel, said innovation is the key to driving value from IT systems and that taking risks is a part of that.

"The question is not whether the culture of risk is worthwhile but rather can your business afford to imitate when it could innovate," he said.

Taking risks requires a fine balance, though. Chris Broad, head of IS and technology at UKAEA, said that while simply caretaking ancient systems is not acceptable, being the first to do something is "probably not a good idea".

Risk-taking in public sector IT is much harder, according to our CIO Jury. Sean Powley, head of IS strategy at the London Borough of Barnet, cited the constraints of working in a highly accountable, politically directed, highly inspected and audited (internal and external) environment.

Peter Ryder, head of ICT at Preston City Council, said: "Public service is usually disinclined to take risks as they do not have resources to fail."

Today's CIO Jury was...

Chris Broad, head of IS and technology, UKAEA
Kevin Fitzpatrick, CTO, Manpower
John Hemingway, CIO, Sheffield Hallam University
Tony Johnson, IT director, Virgin Megastores
John Keeling, director of computer services, John Lewis Partnership
Luke Mellors, IT director, Dorchester Hotel
Rob Neil, head of ICT services, Ashford Borough Council
Andy Pepper, director of business information systems, Tetley
Sean Powley, head of IS strategy, London Borough of Barnet
Jacques Rene, head of IT and projects, Airclaims
Richard Rundle, IT director, BAA
Peter Ryder, head of ICT, Preston City Council

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