Bring in the bosses to push IT initiatives

If IT projects are to stay immune to boardroom dismissal or end user derailment, CIOs must proactively communicate their value to both groups within the organisation.

Hosting last week's CIO Conference in Sydney, Linda Kennedy, CIO magazine editor, presented key findings from the annual State of CIO Survey which aims to help IT executives work towards best practice.

“About 70 percent of our survey respondents said that it’s extremely important to involve senior business leaders or managers in all stages of an IT initiative,” Kennedy said. “CIOs need to encourage business leaders to think in IT terms and best practice CIOs said that most of their IT projects are initiated in line with the business. So it’s important the business manager understand IT capability and limitation.”

Best practice CIO respondents to the survey agreed the only workable method of prioritizing IT projects is to get business leaders to pursue initiatives.

“One CIO formed user groups around specific areas of technology that effect all divisions, such as e-business,” Kennedy said. “Each group is chaired and populated by managerial representatives of the business and includes one of the CIO’s IT directors. It’s kind of a mini steering committee that works below the executive steering committee.”

Kennedy said relationships between IT and business have improved in such organizations, because the division leaders know why a particular project is off the list and they know it was the business itself that put it off the list.

Another best practice involves user representatives, Kennedy said, adding that 73 percent of CIOs said user representatives were an effective contributor in all stages of IT initiatives.

While getting users involved is important, Kennedy said there is a caveat – “don’t let them hijack the project”.

“Seek out the doubters. For any major IT initiative, get the sceptics involved," she said. “They’re public enemy number one as they can bring IT projects to a screeching halt. But if you involve them up front, they can be good [for] the project.”

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