How many times have we read about IT projects that under-perform and are well over budget? It's a common story so it was no surprise this issue went under the microscope during ZDNet's Melbourne IT Priorities Roundtable in July.
(Credit: Munir Kotadia/ZDNet Australia)
The panel members listened intently to experiences shared by Cesare Tizi, country manager for Gentrack, who has over 20 years industry experience and has been the CIO of organisations including AGL and Transurban Group.
Tizi said that he currently mentors a number of CIOs and that in most cases they share the same problem: they strive for technical perfection.
He admitted making the same mistake himself — until he started taking an interest in his employer's core business.
"The minute I started talking about [business] issues with my colleagues, the relationship changed ... all of a sudden I could get my IT ideas on the table.
"If I came with the IT ideas first, then it would just bore them," Tizi told the panellists.
So how does one dispose of a company's IT strategy and still ensure its business IT systems continue to evolve?
Tizi explained that traditionally, the executive team creates a business strategy and then passes it over to IT. The techies then create an IT strategy that is "oriented and synergistic to the business strategy".
However, Tizi joked that the original business strategy was often flawed and the IT staff were usually too interested in deploying the latest cool kit, which is the perfect recipe for a disaster.
The key, according to Tizi, is for the CIO to influence the development of the business strategy and advise where IT could be most efficiently used to realise the organisation's goals.
"I was in the same room when the business strategy was being put together. As they brainstorm what to do with the business, I could say, 'that is a good idea, I could automate it fairly easily'," said Tizi. He would reject other ideas that, although they might make good business sense, could be unrealistic or too expensive from a technology point of view.
"There was no longer an IT strategy, there was a business strategy that had IT elements in it," he said.
This concept of CIOs becoming more involved in the business is certainly not a new one, but I was very impressed with Tizi's explanation of how to actually execute the theory.
Another panel member, Kevin McIsaac from IBRS, said that there are essentially two CIO "types".
"There are CIOs who are basically a service delivery arm. They are an in-sourced IT provider. They are told what the business strategy is (and they have very little input to that) and their job is to provide a commodity service as best they can.
"If [the CIO] is in a strategic role and involved in the strategic planning, they can help [the business] understand how IT can help them with their strategy," he said.
So if you are a CEO, which of these CIO types is running your IT system? Have you hired the correct type for your needs? If you are finding your IT projects are not providing the expected result, maybe it's time for a change.