Perception is key to commanding respect

If the role of the IS manager is to make the executive bosses look good, then perception is everything.

Gartner Research vice-president Andy Kyte said IS managers needed to be aware of how their performance was perceived by the rest of the business, because this would determine the level of respect they commanded.

Describing the ideal IT-business relationship in a rather servile light, Kyte said the IS manager's goal should be to help CXOs and line managers "make their boss look good" by helping those executives achieve their objectives through IT.

"At the moment, the IS organisation isn't really helping CXOs achieve 12-month objectives like cutting their inventory costs, growing their customer base or exceeding their sales targets, so the IS organisation is going to have to think of specific techniques to help deliver real value to business managers," he said.

But Mazda Australia IS manager Michael Strauss said his organisation's IT department was still seen as a separate entity from the rest of the business, physically and conceptually. Strauss said his focus was on providing support to 600 users including staff and the dealer community.

He also remained cynical about the practical value of analyst research, saying that when he made buying decisions he liked to "look, touch and feel" the technology before deciding on an implementation.

Kyte said managers worried about the level of risk in their IT investments would be wise to sit on their hands and wait. By waiting, they gave themselves time to assess the threats in the novelty of a new technology, its level of maturity and capability, and the complexity of a change in business process or business model - measures which could sometimes help protect the company's stock price.

Kyte said companies were safer adopting mature technologies because they had far less associated risks than emerging technologies.

John Roberts, a vice-president and research director for Gartner Asia-Pacific, suggested one of the simplest ways IS managers could gain business counterparts' attention was by asking them to imagine how it would affect the business if it didn't have technology - "if the company started switching things off".

Gartner research director Andy Rowsell-Jones said the two key processes for achieving business value from technology were governance and chargeback.

He said one method for good governance was to benchmark the value of IT through chargeback - the practice of charging individual business units a tariff for the IT services they used, thus making IT less a cost centre.

But the challenge in governing IT was that there was no "vanilla model", particularly for utility-based initiatives where IS might need to consult the business with regards to changes and enhancements to the utility infrastructure.

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