Tech workers urged to improve business skills

Despite being well placed to effect change in their organisations, IT professionals often lack the skills needed to operate at board level

Techies lack the skills needed to operate at board level and be leaders of change and transformation within their organisations.'s sister site,, conducted a 12-strong CIO Jury IT user panel at the IT Directors' Forum last week. Three-quarters of this panel said IT professionals often talk technology too much, while lacking business skills.

Steve Gediking, head of IT at the Independent Police Complaints Commission, said: "We are our own worst enemies because we don't, as a group, talk the language of business. Three out of four IT directors will talk techie to their board. It's easy enough to get the skills you need."

That view was echoed by Patrick Brady, IT director at Barts and The London NHS Trust, who said: "Good managers aren't necessarily good leaders. Business awareness is lacking. The ability to put things in a language that the board understands is lacking."

Unsurprisingly, some said making the leap from manager to leader is down to the individual. John Seglias, IT director at Ipsos Mori, said: "It may be that many IT professionals are not interested or bothered in acquiring the sort of people skills needed to be agents of change."

Domino's Pizza group IT director Jane Kimberlin added: "Some people don't want to play in that area, but it's what we should do. We are well placed to be engineers of change because we know the business. It depends on the board too. If you have a dismissive mindset to work against, you won't succeed, however skilled you are."

One answer is better training for IT professionals and Michael Elliot, IT director at Hasbro, said: "The people who rise up through the ranks don't necessarily gain those sorts of skills as they progress."

Will Thornton-Reid, JD Williams' head of systems, said: "Early training should be set up to lead into a strategic role. IT directors should be better suited to a strategic role in change management and business transformation because their concerns run across all of the business areas."

But Sue Yeo, Apacs' director of technology, information and facilities, argued: "We shouldn't be so defeatist. We all have the will to acquire the people skills we need. I don't mind not being on the main board. I am part of the elite and, when I'm needed, I'm brought in to discuss strategy."'s Julian Goldsmith contributed to this article