'Keeping the lights on' still a challenge
Complexity caused by business change and rapid technology developments is still one of the main battlegrounds for CIOs, according to UK tech chiefs.
Analyst Gartner's annual CIO survey this week revealed that almost two-thirds of IT budgets are still taken up 'keeping the lights on' and managing increasingly complex IT environments.
silicon.com's 12-strong CIO Jury IT user panel also delivered a 'guilty' verdict on complexity, with 10 of them declaring it one of the main challenges for CIOs today.
Neil Hammond, head of IT at British Sugar, said: "Complexity is inevitable in IT and is a result of inevitable business change and rapid developments in the technology. I think managing the complexity is one of IT's main jobs. The 'business' isn't interested in the detail but on the other hand expects IT to keep its house in order."
Cyclical trends and rapid business growth also add to this complexity, according to Graham Yellowley, director of technology services at investment bank Mitsubishi UFJ Securities International.
He said: "IT complexity is still a major challenge made harder by the increasing growth demands being placed on IT. Constant rapid growth can lead to a situation whereby infrastructure services become bogged down as there is little time to design an environment that is scalable and future proof - so growth periods invariably end with a complete overhaul of infrastructure which gets started only to be hit by the next growth wave."
Gavin Whatrup, group IT director at advertising agency Creston, said IT is a victim of its own success, with greater uptime and performance increasing expectation from the business.
He said: "That, combined with the increased level of complexity required to cope with the much more diverse nature of business now, has put IT in the invidious position of meeting the constant upward curve of expectation and complex systems with static or reduced budgets."
Paul Hopkins, IT director at Newcastle University, said IT will get "impossibly more complex" if tech departments waste their time trying to limit the way end-users work by only supporting certain applications and devices.
Hopkins added: "We need to focus our attention on dealing with the complexities which affect our core business processes - but it's all too easy to become Canute-like and waste time trying to impact areas of complexity over which we no longer have either control or even influence."
But Richard Steel, CIO at the London Borough of Newham, said the challenge is less about complexity and more about the increased scope and pace of change - especially in the public sector.
He said: "In many respects, complexity is reduced as infrastructure is becoming standardised around a single IP network but the scope of ICT now clearly encompasses all electronic communications media, and extends beyond the business into the community.
"At the same time, the pace of change is relentless and, in an age when we have all become totally dependent on ICT, the increasing demands of security, information governance and legislation - and the need to join-up services and to maximise the utility of our information assets whilst continuing to manage down the real costs - provide ample challenge."
Today's CIO Jury was...
Alastair Behenna, CIO, Harvey Nash
Nicholas Bellenberg, IT director, Hachette Filipacchi UK
Paul Broome, CTO, 192.com
Mark Dearnley, CIO, Cable & Wireless
Neil Hammond, head of IT, British Sugar
Paul Hopkins, IT director, Newcastle University
Tony Johnson, IT director, Virgin Megastores
Stuart Marshall, CIO, Investcorp
Richard Steel, CIO, London Borough of Newham
Rob Wharton, CIO, Colt Telecom
Gavin Whatrup, group IT director, Creston
Graham Yellowley, director of technology services, Mitsubishi UFJ Securities International
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