Recently I came across probably the most engaging speaker I've heard on the issues facing technology executives.
Despite having attended dozens of IT conferences where CIOs and vendor executives get up and spout off about what they believe are the most pressing issues for technology managers, I found UTS' Professor Steve Burdon to be a standout.
And before you start thinking, "What, an academic?", let me tell you Steve has some impressive work experience. Formerly the group managing director of Telecom (now Telstra of course), he has also held a number of other executive technology roles, such as the Asia Pacific boss for British Telecom. This is a man who knows what it takes to run a technology shop.
But the thing that impressed me most about Steve was that he backed up his assertions with historical analysis. He has a good reading of modern organisational structure, and how the IT function fits, or in some cases, has been forced to fit, into this.
His view that despite all the talk about IT being a 'strategic business enabler' and so forth; it is subject to approval by the CFO, not the MD, was particularly enlightening.
I've heard a lot of technology executives claim that their operations are crucial to the business' success, yet many report to the CFO. Not surprisingly, the other long-running gripe we hear from tech bosses is the battle with the finance department to get project approval.
If technology projects were really seen as a key to the business' success, surely the MD would decide their fate, rather than leaving it to the CFO as a cost decision?
However, Steve says the introduction of the 'CIO' position in recent years could change this.
I'm sure most of you would rather report to the MD, but how likely is it? Do you think you could get more buy-in for projects if you pitched them to the MD, as opposed to the bean-counters?