Boards undervalue IT: Boyles

Company directors undervalue their IT staff and still believe that automation will help them cut IT budgets without affecting their core business, according to David Boyles, chief information officer of ANZ Bank from 1998-2004.Boyles, who now advises chief executives and other C-level managers on technology management issues, told ZDNet Australia that boards of directors were increasingly asking whether IT budgets could be cut.

Company directors undervalue their IT staff and still believe that automation will help them cut IT budgets without affecting their core business, according to David Boyles, chief information officer of ANZ Bank from 1998-2004.

Boyles, who now advises chief executives and other C-level managers on technology management issues, told ZDNet Australia that boards of directors were increasingly asking whether IT budgets could be cut.

"It's one of the most common questions I'm being asked by people I work with -- can we cut the IT budget to save costs? [They'll say] 'All this stuff is automated, so we'll be fine'," said Boyles.

However many company directors did not completely realise the value of their IT infrastructure to their company's operations, according to Boyles.

"They need to ask themselves, if I cut the [technology] staff to the bone, and the systems stop working for one day, what is the cost to the organisation?"

With the constant increase in online payment services, some big businesses could probably operate for a short time without sales staff more easily than without their e-commerce operations, he said.

"This job [CIO] has the most exposure of any in the company," said Boyles. "And if your retail site is down, someone will calculate what is the loss to the company? I'm not trying to say that IT should run the company, but how often do we have the CIO talking to the board?"

The problem could be partially solved if more [former] technology executives were included on corporate boards, according to Boyles: "How many ex-CIOs do you see on large corporate boards… You get attorneys, HR directors, COOs, but where are the tech people?"

In another claim that could raise the ire of the non-technology savvy, Boyles said he believed it was rare for new technology to be the root cause of project failure. He cited a situation a few years ago when several of the big banks purchased enterprise resource planning software.

"Now I'm not going to name names, but one [bank] had a near employee revolt, and one had a big cost overrun… I'm willing to bet that one of those banks blamed it on the technology."

According to Boyles, the blame for many failed projects lies with project management processes rather than the technology selected to carry out the task.

"What I ask is, 'if it was the technology, was it really the root cause? The root cause is back with the risk management and the steering committee of the project. It's all part of the governance of IT."

Boyles said the software used in most major projects was usually pre-packaged, which is generally not complicated to roll out: "You're telling me that there are all these installations around the world and the software's not any good? I don't think it's the software."

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