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BCS: Embrace tech or lose advantage

British Computer Society and Microsoft have claimed companies must make IT integral to their business strategy or risk losing competitive edge
Written by Tom Espiner, Contributor on

Stitching technology into the fabric of business strategy is vital for companies looking to get competitive advantage, according to the British Computer Society.

Speaking to promote the organisation's long-running campaign to promote professionalism in the IT industry, the British Computer Society (BCS) warned that companies that fail to recognise outstanding individuals in the field of IT risk losing competitive advantage.

"The companies where we see CIOs accelerating towards [or represented on] the board will make UK plc a more major economic force in the world. They have the knowledge capital and the ability to implement and exploit technology for competitive advantage," said Adam Thilthorpe, BCS professionalism in IT programme manager.

The BCS professionalism programme has been running since 2005 and aims to promote best practice in IT by establishing a common language for the IT industry and a competency framework for technology professionals. A series of reports into these areas is expected later this year.

However, despite the general poor representation of IT on the board, some CIOs are breaking through, according to Thilthorpe. He described the concept of a "technological revolution" in companies such as Tesco, which has integrated IT into the very core of its organisation. "The more technological revolution there is in business, the more major firms need IT expertise on the board," Thilthorpe added.

Meanwhile, a Microsoft survey of 200 IT directors published last week found that fewer than half of the companies questioned had IT representation on the board.

Matt Dunstan, application platform group manager for Microsoft UK, said this result was a cause for concern.

"It is worrying, and symptomatic of a tension that has existed in the industry for quite a long time," said Dunstan. "IT is still struggling to get relevance in some organisations. It's a problem IT departments continually struggle with."

The APO Survey 2007 found that, where there is CIO board representation, IT is seen as a strategic asset, but, where there is no board representation, IT is seen as a "necessary evil", according to Dunstan.

"In some companies IT is seen as a necessary evil, [whereas] in some businesses IT is central to operations. Industry needs IT to do mundane things, but those using IT to mine a customer base will get an edge," said Dunstan.

The Microsoft survey pointed out the existence of a "chicken and egg scenario".

"Which comes first: board representation or strategic intent?" asked the survey.

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