IT leaders dismiss report on negative executive perceptions of the CIO

By Danny Palmer
01 Aug 2014 View Comments
clayton-nash-network-rail-telecoms

Top UK-based IT leaders have dismissed an analyst report that suggests executives don't believe the CIO is doing much to enhance the performance of their business departments.

The Forrester report, titled 'Top Technologies For Your Business Technology Agenda,' is based on a survey of over 3,500 executives from across a number of different business departments. It doesn't make pleasant reading for CIOs, with large swathes telling Forrester researchers that their IT department hinders business success more than accelerates it.

Further reading

Customer service professionals were the most dismissive of the CIO, with 79 per cent suggesting that the IT department doesn't play a role in improving their part of the business, while 78 per cent of those in product and engineering expressed the same view.

Sales executives tended to agree, with 74 per cent suggesting IT didn't play a role in accelerating their success. R&D isn't far behind, with 69 per cent of respondents working in that field believing IT is more of a hindrance than an enabler. The report goes on listing other areas of business, but it doesn't make happy reading for the CIO.

However, Computing quizzed two senior IT professionals for their views on the report, and the consensus suggests that far from being disrespected by executives that don't know what IT contributes, rather CIOs and what they do are seen as a key business enabler.

"I think there is a good understanding in our business because it's critical to what we do and we have a good relationship with the rest of the organisation," Angus McCallum, global CIO for multinational oil and gas company BG Group told Computing.

"If I look, we have two groups, one looking after the enterprise and one looking at the rest, both chaired by a member of the executive so they have a good understanding of the projects, what we're trying to do and how that will drive business value," he said.

McCallum did however suggest that the report might not be all wrong, because IT often needs to justify itself to other departments within the organisation, who might perceive IT staff to be gatekeepers who are just preventing them from using whichever applications and devices they like within the workplace.

However, the BG Group global CIO ultimately believes that IT is more of an enabler than a hindrance and that the board are aware of this.

"I think there always is the balance and challenge between IT as an overhead and IT as what business runs on. But I think generally our executives have a good perception of that and if I'm honest, help us manage that demand," he said.

"Because ultimately, it's business demand that drives IT cost, so we have to make sure that demand's adding greater business value than it's costing."

McCallum added that when it comes to presenting decisions to the board, he rarely finds that he comes up against resistance, because executives understand what he's trying to achieve as CIO.

"Their [the board] focus is no different from mine, which is how they generate business value. We're a technical company and IT has already been heavily used in this industry and in that way it's welcomed," he said.

Clayton Nash (pictured), head of telecom product at Network Rail Telecom, also disagreed with the Forrester report. Indeed, his company is in fact looking to expand its IT strategy, because connected devices are seen as an integral part of the future of the railway. Nash told Computing that the board are fully aware of the benefits information technology brings to the organisation.

"Our executives have fully bought into our Internet of Things strategy. We're one of the few departments within Network Rail which grew over the course of the current funding period. Our lead executive speaks explicitly about the digital railway," he said.

Nash went on to suggest that without the support and infrastructure offered by IT, the trains simply wouldn't run, something which puts telecommunications at the heart of the business.

And by that he means understanding where everything is, at every point, which is backed up by telecoms and IT. "Without that we can't run the trains, it's simply not possible to do that anymore," he said.

"I can understand why others have said they're not seeing the benefits from the spend, but we're definitely seeing the benefits and we're definitely going to push on with it," Nash added.

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