Friday, November 26, 2010

CIOs, CTOs Should be the Voices of IT Professionals in the Boardrooms

Chief information officers, chief technology officers and general IT management have the responsibility to convince business about the fact that IT is no longer just about providing communication infrastructure and tools to support business.

IT has evolved dramatically in the past decade. Technologies such as services-oriented architecture and business process management tools help businesses to automate their manual processes and transform IT services from just mere support tools to business services in their own rights.

Many business executives still see IT as a supporting function, and for this perception we have to blame the IT management. It seems to me that most of our IT managers have low self-esteem and self-confidence, resulting in failure to justify the value that IT is adding to their organisations.

Perhaps the reason why IT professionals remain the underdogs compared to business professionals is due to the fact that IT professionals are the ones that approach business on how they can improve things within their organisations in many occasions.

However, in the process of providing these IT services usually seen as operational services aimed at reducing operations cost, those regarded as business professionals turn to ignore the fact that some of these services go beyond just being operational services and become standalone business services generating income directly to business; yet we only see those regarded as business professionals getting huge bonuses compared to IT professionals.

Many companies do not regard IT professionals as business professionals, but rather as operational professionals, claiming that they do not deal with customers directly. Today customers are accessing IT services directly to some extent without any human intervention. For example, services such as cellphone banking and Internet banking allow customers to make transactions wherever they are without having to visit banks. Another example would be the Online Share Trading service offered by some of the investment banks. Again this is a pure standalone IT service serving customers directly.

Furthermore, when banks advertise these services they don't regard them as IT services but rather as business services. There are so many other services that are currently being offered through IT, such as online reservations for accommodation/tickets for entertainment/flights, paying of fines and many more. I have no doubt that soon we will be paying almost all our bills online.

Besides the online services, one can argue that even applications such as enterprise resource planning cannot be seen as mere supporting tools, but rather part of business. For example, today accountants can pull out reports like the balance sheets or income statements from accounting systems such as Oracle Financials or SAP Financials. Another example would be investment banking systems, such as Calypso or Murex, that keep records of all the trades captured, with cash flows and settlement dates. In addition, most IT enterprise applications have the intelligence to provide users with various notifications that guide and help business to make informed decisions, for example, when there is a payment due, running out of stock, demand and supply and when something is missing.

It is clear that some IT services are serving customers directly and credit should be given to IT professionals who are responsible for these services on a daily basis. From my observation, I have learnt that many IT professionals don't show interest in the business itself to a point wherein they don't know their self-worth. IT professionals need to see themselves as part of business, and in order for them to earn the respect, they also need to make sure that their hard work gets to be recognised by business when they go to the boardroom. I think it is time for IT professionals to earn the respect and recognition for their enormous contribution towards company profits.

Of course this can only start from the top. Our chief information officers, chief technology officers and general IT management need to walk into the boardrooms with pride and negotiate better salaries and bonuses for their staff. Some of the reasons for business to slash bonuses of IT professionals compared to business professionals is based on the fact that IT professionals do not deal with customers directly, which is not true in some instances. 

Some business executives justify their acts, pointing to the hefty licence fees they pay out to various IT vendors. I must say that not all companies have the patronising tendency towards IT professionals and those who are embracing technology, and who see IT as part of their business but rather not as a cost centre, are reaping the rewards and will remain competitive.

Nonetheless, business professionals still remain critical to any business and must also be respected. IT professionals need to be obsessed about business processes the same way they are obsessed about the technology to overcome these barriers. The future lies in our own hands.

IT Web

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