Techies "lack business and leadership skills"

CIO Jury: Baffling the board with techno-babble…

Techies lack the skills needed to operate at board level and be leaders of change and transformation within their organisations.

Three-quarters of the 12-strong CIO Jury IT user panel - conducted at the IT Directors' Forum last week - said IT professionals often talk technology too much while lacking business skills.

Steve Gediking, head of IT at the Independent Police Complaints Commission, said: "We are our own worst enemies because we don't as a group talk the language of business. Three out of four IT directors will talk techie to their board. It's easy enough to get the skills you need."

That view was echoed by Patrick Brady, IT director at Barts & The London Hospitals NHS Trust, who said: "Good managers aren't necessarily good leaders. Business awareness is lacking. The ability to put things in a language that the board understands is lacking. "

Unsurprisingly some said making the leap from manager to leader is down to the individual. John Seglias, Ipsos Mori IT director, said: "It may be that many IT professionals are not interested or bothered in acquiring the sort of people skills needed to be agents of change."

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Domino's Pizza group IT director Jane Kimberlin added: "Some people don't want to play in that area, but it's what we should do. We are well placed to be engineers of change because we know the business. It depends on the board too. If you have a dismissive mindset to work against, you won't succeed, however skilled you are."

One answer is better training for IT professionals and Michael Elliot, Hasbro IT director, said: "The people who rose up through the ranks don't necessarily gain those sorts of skills as they progress."

Will Thornton-Reid, JD Williams head of systems, said: "Early training should be set up to lead into a strategic role. IT directors should be better suited to a strategic role in change management and business transformation because their concerns run across all of the business areas."

But Sue Yeo, Apacs director of technology, information and facilities, argued: "We shouldn't be so defeatist. We all have the will to acquire the people skills we need. I don't mind not being on the main board. I am part of the elite and when I'm needed I'm brought in to discuss strategy."

Julian Goldsmith contributed to this article

Today's CIO Jury was…

Patrick Brady, IT director, Barts & The London Hospitals NHS Trust
Michael Elliott, IT director, Hasbro
Steve Gediking, head of IT, Independent Police Complaints Commission
Jane Kimberlin, group IT director, Domino's Pizza
Christopher Linfoot, IT director, LDV Group
Ian McCorrison, director of ICT, Lincolnshire Police
Richard Storey, head of IT, Guys & St Thomas' Foundation Hospital NHS Trust
Will Thornton-Reid, head of systems, JD Wlliams
John Seglias, IT director, Ipsos Mori
John Shepherd, head of IS, Gloucestershire Constabulary
Alan Shrimpton, head of IS, Avon & Somerset Constabulary
Sue Yeo, director technology, information & facilities, Apacs

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