In Praise of IT Directors: Why Expertise Still Matters

By Meghann Wooster posted 01-10-2012 10:19

  

Gartner recently came out with its top predictions for 2012, highlighting “how the control of technology and technology-driven decisions is shifting out of the hands of IT organizations.”

Analysts Daryl Plummer and Peter Middleton write that “the forces of cloud computing, social media and social networking, mobility and information management are all evolving at a rapid pace.” In fact, they say, “business unit stakeholders often recognize the value of new technology before IT departments can harness it.”

Some people believe that this shift, this consumerization of IT, is “killing” IT departments—stealing their power by turning them into order takers who are scrambling to manage the haphazard IT initiatives sprouting up around the enterprise rather than focus on strategic plans.

But here’s the reality: Ideas are cheap. Execution is everything. And organizations aren’t going to be able to effect truly wide-ranging technological transformation without leadership from the CIO.

Are We All IT Professionals?

Business unit leaders—heck, even business school students—can claim to be “self-taught technology experts,” but declaring expertise does not make it so. I’m reminded of a line from a recent Wall Street Journal article that states, “Today, anyone can be a critic, but that doesn’t mean everyone’s opinions are equal.”

An educated, informed IT professional will have a much better understanding of the GRC issues surrounding the implementation of any type of social, mobile or cloud technology than a self-taught technology user from one of the business units. And in an age when organizations face huge monetary and reputational penalties for data breaches and non-compliance with government regulations, you’d better believe that GRC is important.

Beyond GRC, though, IT leaders are the ones who can see past the needs of any given BU to the enterprise as a whole. As Gartner’s Kenneth Chin reminded us at a recent CIO Symposium (and Kimberly Samuelson documents in this article from CMS Wire), “If you’re responsible for a department, then that is your enterprise.”

Samuelson goes on to explain:

Business unit leaders tend to push for the technology that will best serve their needs, without taking the rest of the organization into consideration. The CIO is the one who can see the big picture, who can implement the technology that will optimize processes across the entire organization—not just in one or two departments.

So, sure, there might be a bit of lag time between the “aha” moment and the implementation of a new technology, but it’s in that pause that the professionals are formulating the overarching strategy, including the policies, procedures and practices that will channel the technology’s power to the organization’s desired effect.

Although business leaders might have more say in how, when and where IT is deployed in the year to come, the real innovation still lies in taking these ideas and making them useful for the enterprise as a whole.



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