Old fashioned views of ICT endanger business

Published on the 15/09/2014 | Written by Amanda White

Emerging ICT Leader of the Year Amanda White says there is frustration amongst a large number of ICT managers who are being excluded from the C-suite…

It starts at the top. If a company board and CEO value and understand the true role of ICT within an organisation then it will have a representative at the C-suite level. If they don’t there won’t be. But if the CIO is missing from the table, the C-suite is failing to represent the business as a whole.

In today’s business environment a CEO or the board can no longer afford to have the old-fashioned mindset that IT is there to keep the lights on. The role of the CIO is a critical part of success as a company as a whole; it is just as important as marketing, sales, finance, and so forth. How can your CMO do their job if there is no IT platform to spring from? How can the finance team keep track of revenue and expenditure if there are no systems in place for this? How can your sales team increase sales if the backend system architecture is slow and cumbersome?

Today, ICT underpins everything that a business does, and we live in a market where the customer constantly demands new offerings, and fast. In order for businesses to keep or gain a competitive advantage they need to bend and flex at a rate like never before.

The role of the CIO is to enable the business to achieve its end goals, whether departmental or business goals. However, in order for the CIO to be able to this they must be at the C-suite table and therefore fully aware of what the company is trying to achieve. Only then can the CIO effectively work with the business to achieve the desired outcome.

ICT is not about providing the users a laptop, an iPad, servers and an internet connection anymore. ICT is about business intelligence: how enhancement to the business can be achieved by using the ICT systems in a strategic manner. A company should never be IT lead, it should always be business lead, but ICT is the vehicle that it uses to get there.
In order for a CIO to be able to function fully it is critical that he or she has a strong working relationship with the CFO. Every enhancement or new ICT project needs funding and a CIO and CFO that can work together.

High performing companies have known that the role of the CIO must be at the C-suite level for many years. If we look at high-performing New Zealand-based companies like Fletcher, Fonterra, Progressive Enterprises and the New Zealand branch of ANZ bank you will notice a couple of things. Firstly they all have CIOs or a technology representative with a clearly defined role; they all understand their customers; they recognise that technology is critical to their business in meeting their customers’ needs, wants and expectations; and they understand that technology plays a key role in maintaining or gaining competitive advantage.

Their CIOs understand the needs of the business and meet them with backend systems infrastructure. CIOs support the ability of a business to be dynamic and offer a seamless experience both internally and externally – and surely that’s worth a seat at the big table.

Amanda_White_200Amanda White is currently responsible for the strategic direction, delivery of projects and overall management of an ICT department. She holds a number of industry qualifications and has an MBA. She has over 10 years of industry experience and knowledge.

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