The increasing focus on business rather than technology is vital for future IT professionals, according to leading CIOs.

CIOs were accused this week by JP Rangaswami, CIO at Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein, of putting potential IT graduates off a career in technology by talking too much about “I am the business, not IT”.

But three-quarters (nine) of’s CIO Jury user panel disagreed with the claim that talking down technology makes it an unattractive career option for youngsters at a time when there is a shortage of IT talent coming through the education system.

Sean Powley, head of IS strategy at the London Borough of Barnet Council, said it is the IT profession that needs to change.

“The IT profession and careers in technology must be about the business, not some techie ghetto. If this means speaking the language of the business, then so be it,” he said.

Talking up technology is more likely to damage the image of the IT profession, according to Mark Lichtenhein, director of IT and new media, PGA European Tour. “We need youngsters and graduates to be focused on the application and viable business uses of technology – not the development of technology for technology’s sake.”

Kevin Fitzpatrick, CTO at Manpower, said: “IT is a business support function not an end in itself. We need business-minded IT staff – if the graduates don’t have an understanding of commerce and a passion for making their companies more successful they are in the wrong job.”

Luke Mellors, IT director at the Dorchester, said the move towards a business focus is more healthy for the IT profession.

“Traditionally we have only ever been able to attract technical-driven, career-minded individuals. It is increasingly more important to attract business people as well as technical people into the IT profession. I would suggest that we are expanding our ability to attract individuals to this profession rather than limiting it,” he said.

But Tony Johnson, IT director at Virgin Megastores, acknowledged there must still be recognition of the continued importance of skilled technical IT professionals.

Others said that while the need to be “business aware” is important, technology remains a key aspect of the profession.

Peter Ryder, head of ICT, Preston City Council, said: “In recruitment the technology aspect of IT must be made more prominent especially in the more technical aspects of an IT career.”

Today’s CIO Jury was…

Michael Bufalino, ITC director, Sheppard Robson
Ken Davis, head of IT, Five
Kevin Fitzpatrick, CTO, Manpower
Tony Johnson, IT director, Virgin Megastores
Mark Lichtenhein, director of IT and new media, PGA European Tour
Christopher Linfoot, IT director, LDV Vans
Nick Masterson-Jones, IT programmes director, Voca (formerly Bacs)
Luke Mellors, IT director, The Dorchester
Rory O’Boyle, IT director, The Football Association
Sean Powley, head of IS strategy, London Borough of Barnet
Peter Ryder, head of ICT, Preston City Council
Richard Steel, head of ICT, London Borough of Newham

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