Lack of boardroom credibility dogs IT directors

Lack of recognition and boardroom credibility top the concerns of U.K. IT chiefs aiming to make a strategic impact on the business.

Lack of recognition and boardroom credibility top the concerns of IT chiefs aiming to make a strategic impact on the business, according to delegates at this year's IT directors' forum.

One IT director delegate told silicon.com the trend for giving more business control over IT projects had swung too far in favor of the boardroom.

But during a debate on whether IT directors add any value Cathy Holley, partner at headhunting firm Boyden UK, said many IT chiefs simply aren't up to being business leaders.

"The time for gentle evolution has passed. It is transformation and revolution--and boards have never been so IT literate. IT directors I interview on a daily basis are basically data processing managers. They are managers--not leaders," she said.

She joked that the thought of being on the executive board actually "scares the shit" out of many IT bosses.

Robina Chatham, visiting fellow at Cranfield School of Management, said in a session on how to engage the CEO that the onus is on IT directors to be more proactive in getting involved with the business.

"Lunchtimes are for networking. It's far more important than doing email or meeting suppliers or staff," she said.

Mike Branigan, group IT director at TDG, said the challenge is to shift the balance away from just keeping the lights on.

"Around 85 percent of IT people are keeping the lights running. IT won't be successful unless you change that. It's easy to keep the lights running. We have hired in a new type of individual--the business analyst and business-speak has replaced techno-babble."

But delegate David Tidey, head of Information Systems at the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, maintained it is still the IT director who essentially holds an organization together.

"The only person who has an overview of the whole organization is the IT director," he said.

Silicon.com's Andy McCue reported from London.