IT holds purse strings but shares spending decisions

When it comes to technology purchasing decisions IT has the clout, but forward-thinking organizations know the road to successful IT-business alignment is paved with bricks of teamwork and cemented with a shared vision.

According to CIO Magazine editor Linda Kennedy, findings from the 2005 "State of the CIO" survey conducted by CIO Magazine once again confirm that Australian enterprises are achieving IT-business alignment, with 80 percent of them having cross-functional IT steering committees.

"Nearly 70 percent of those surveyed are part of the executive team and their spending power is huge, only 25 percent of respondents had budgets under $5 million," Kennedy said.

Gartner's Asia Pacific vice president and chief of research John Roberts backed the findings, pointing out that successful CIOs are those who tend to have strong steering committees or councils in place to assist with the decision-making process.

"This is where CIOs have their say. They also have in place well-documented procedures for IT governance," Roberts said.

"If it's for business applications it's often a shared decision; but for infrastructure, these decisions are far more likely to be controlled by the CIO."

Smart CIOs, Roberts said, are getting good at using their influence.

An increasing focus on standards and enterprise architecture has enforced IT's strong influence in buying decisions.

This has made IT a key business partner, as organizations look to avoid costly silos. This recognition within the enterprise means IT purchasing advice is highly sought after to ensure IT architecture issues are addressed as a matter of course in all procurement decisions.

Ausco Building Systems IT manager Ian Mascord agrees.

"We get to pick the vendor and product but the business determines what needs have to be fulfilled by IT," he said.

"So basically we control who it is and what it is, but management sets the guidelines to ensure business needs are met. The trick is to be accountable to the business for the service that you provide."

At Eurobodalla Shire Council, IT manager Heinz Matti admits management wants to sign off on the big deals but it's really IT who holds the reins.

"We have to push new technology into the business, and it's our role to make sure our business achieves things like increased productivity," Matti said.

"Most people wouldn't know about the technology options available to them unless we keep them informed, so we obviously influence the IT spend."

Bata Shoes IT manager Steven Barret said the executive team is keeping a much keener eye on IT spend. He believes that communication is the key to squeezing a few more dollars out of executives in an organization.

"This means keeping management informed and demonstrating how the technology will benefit the company," Barret said.

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