IT should stop kowtowing to business

IT alignment with business is still causing grief for Australian CIOs, with some questioning why IT has to make all the moves.

John Thomas, CIO for AM Corporation, said while there is a push for IT to get closer to business, business has not yet seen the need to get close to IT.

"Business needs to take more ownership of projects," he said.

"I don't need any new projects, my IT shop works fine. The only reason we have projects is because they are created by business, for example, financial planners."

Thomas said he has disbanded many IT steering committees, as business needs to realise that IT looks after only the backend.

"There needs to be a cultural acceptance of what business is responsible for."

Thomas is not alone in his frustration, which many Australian, and global, CIOs share.

According to a Meta Group CIO survey -- Top Australian CIO Issues for 2002 -- by analyst Jonathan Poe, the top two issues for 2002 are alignment and business value to more than 63 per cent of CIOs in Australia who responded to the survey.

Operations excellence, adaptive infrastructure, customer relationship management initiatives and leadership issues also rated strongly as ongoing executive concerns.

Thomas said that while all CIOs aspire to service excellence, more immediate problems such as how to clean up legacy systems take priority.

"I spend time looking after 100-plus people, making the front end more sexy, and working with business, but predominantly I spend my time on legacy systems and getting us out of the hole we have dug."

Other issues keeping CIOs up at night, according to Thomas, include security and cost containment.

"Security is very important in the financial services area and from a business perspective it was 'rats' two years ago.

"Australian organisations are suffering now as they have been lax on security, physically and technology-wise. Security will be a force this year."

With budgets expected to remain tight for at least the next 12 months, cost containment will remain an issue for IT professionals.

But, Thomas said, while analyst hype says the emphasis is now on IT to justify itself, it has always been this way.

"In the 30 years I have been in IT, IT has always had to do that, but it has become tougher. We are looking at reduced budgets and the revenues are just not there."

Thomas said CIOs need to get the "best bang for the buck" and get a "lot smarter" with the management of their systems.

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