IT's role shifts to persuader as belts tighten

With budget wishlists shelved for this year and IT belt tightening expected to continue throughout the first half, it is now more important than ever for IT to ensure upper management understands and recognises the important role IT plays within business.

The focus has shifted for IT from the interminable chess game of trying to get more money, to actively playing its part it the business to contain costs and generate revenue.

Peter Hind, program manager, InTEP Forums for IDC Australia said the reality is that asking for more money does not work for IT"IT needs to understand and appreciate the pressures facing everyone in business, not just the pressures facing IT. It is important that IT be part of the team and realise it plays a role within the company."

Hind said IT executives need to put themselves in the shoes of their business peers and 'package' proposals for projects in terms that offer recognisable benefits to the business as a whole; then they will have a greater chance of funding being approved for projects.

"Unless a project has a strong ROI argument or presents some fundamental business driver then it is futile to put forward grand plans for approval. It is also counterproductive as it shows IT is not living in the real world."

Mike Ansell, IT manager for Wonderland Sydney, said promoting IT within the company is difficult, and to ensure projects move forward, he tries to "dissolve" IT into the background.

"I think it is important to create projects that are driven from the business unit end. I don't put a project up as an IT project. The focus needs to be on the revenue or cost-control benefits of the project."

Hind agrees. He said rather than IT presenting a project based on ROI, it should focus on other business benefits.

"I know of a company which recently put in a SAN. The IT executives spoke about the security of data rather than ROI to get board support. But they also got support as they did not put in the budget the most expensive SAN available."

Hind said IT also needs to eliminate the "wishy washy" in proposals and "get pragmatic" by playing its part in the containment of costs.

"IT has to demonstrate that it is playing the game too. For example, by putting [a company's] telco costs under scrutiny, IT shows it is being serious about saving money." Other money-saving moves may also be to consider changing contractors to full-time employees, or making the PCs last another six months."

Ansell said another point to remember is that many senior executives in business do not understand every new type of technology and, like end users, are only interested in the end results.

"I haven't abandoned keeping up with technology, but I let my suppliers look after that. My role is to figure out how the business is going and how IT can be used as a backbone."

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