Techies' poor business skills impede progress

Businesses' change management programmes are being held back by a lack of communication, leadership and project-management skills in IT departments, survey suggests

Poor communication, leadership and project-management skills among IT staff are hindering change management and business transformation programmes.

Almost three-quarters (73 percent) of chief information officers and IT managers admit that the progress of change management programmes in their organisations is impeded by a lack of skills in their own IT departments.

The survey of 135 members of CIO Connect cited selling the benefits of a proposed change programme and communicating the nature of project changes to stakeholders as two of the key challenges for IT departments.

Birmingham City Council is one organisation in the middle of a massive change programme. Its £250m Service Birmingham joint venture between the council and outsourcing company Capita aims to save the city £1bn over the next 10 years.

Glyn Evans, Birmingham City Council chief information officer, said the authority went down the joint-venture route to gain access to skills and resources it didn't have in-house.

He said: "If you are going to do this scale of change you need greater capacity and new skills. Some of those are coming from my IT staff and some from outside."

Evans said there is still a role in the IT department for people who just want to work with technology but said more business skills and awareness is needed.

He said: "It is around the softer people skills — persuasion, pushing a vision, leadership — to get the business to make better use of the technology. One of the key things is the ability to challenge business managers without causing offence."

Birmingham City Council is currently putting some of its systems support staff through a formal skills audit to identify what skills they have and what sort of training is needed.

Just over half (51 percent) of the CIO Connect survey respondents said they are planning to increase training investment over the next year to ensure IT staff can contribute more to change management programmes.

Nick Kirkland, managing director of CIO Connect, said: "This is a very honest and enlightened admission by our members that IT has a fundamental role to play in the evolution of businesses and there is more to be done. Specialised training is the way forward."