Lift IT's image as a business unit

Some IT managers are "so 1980s" when they portray their departments as cost centres instead of a source of competitive advantage, according to City of Cockburn's information services manager, Tony Manno.

Manno, who says, today's IT managers do not have to justify their importance to an organisation's bottom line, has executive buy-in and sponsorship that is part of a 10-year strategic plan, which includes regular forums with different parts of the organisation.

Like an outsourcing provider, he has service-level agreements with different departments, which also removes 'outsourcing fears'. Manno said reporting success and failure should be part of an IT manager's acumen.

"If it is, then any challenge put before the IT department can be matched or bettered; the business case for internal service provision, together with documented successes, should always be used when put up against any outsourcing proposal," he said.

There is a clear case for IT managers to sell the message that they are driving the business forward, said Mike Jones, IT management mentoring expert and managing director of UK-based IT strategy company FocusCentre.

Speaking at the IBM Users conference, Interaction 2003, in Sydney last week, Jones said while it is technology that drives the business forward, it is the role of IT staff to drive technology innovation.

He said that, while IT shops are under pressure to perform, theymust remember they have the right to question senior managers on their decision making.

This applies to both sides of the equation, Jones said, with IT departments also taking a pro-active approach when it comes to dealing with users.

He said IT departments need to conduct internal staff satisfaction surveys, encourage feedback from users and set targets.

"It's also important to have regular minuted meetings to encourage professionalism and actually get things done," Jones said adding that IT managers need to stick to the five critical elements of management: "plan, control, communicate, motivate and delegate".

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