Line-of-Business Treasure the Grail of IT Survival

Gartner chief executive officer Michael Fleisher has challenged top-line IT executives to shift their focus towards business goals or risk finding themselves in charge of ever shrinking ‘islands'.

In his keynote at Gartner's Symposium/ITxpo 2000 in Brisbane last week, Fleisher claimed that after spending 40 years as a cost-cutting tool, IT had suddenly emerged over the past two years as a powerful revenue generating force for almost every industry. Fleisher spends much of his working life meeting with corporate CEOs.

He warned that few CIOs and chief technology officers (CTOs) have had the opportunity to develop the business skills and knowledge they need to build IT-based business models. Those who do will be the leaders of the future, Fleisher said, and with an eye to the IT exec laden Symposium/ITxpo audience, added that ‘you are the best people' to lead CEOs to the new opportunities.

However, when questioned in a later interview, Fleisher said he believed that five years from now more than 50 per cent of the top IT people in organisations will be "tech savvy business executives rather than business savvy technology executives".

"CEOs and business executives have [already] figured out that IT brings new opportunities; the challenge they have is deciding who to turn to for help to solve problems," Fleisher said. "In my opinion the first [person] is not going to be the CIO and CTO - they turn to them about using technology to cut costs (they're relegated to this). If CIOs and CTOs don't figure out how to use IT to generate revenue, they'll find themselves on a shrinking island."

Top level IT executives need to be focusing on the business drivers and positioning themselves, he said.

CIOs face an incredibly difficult challenge. Naturally enough, they are focused on where they're spending 90 per cent of their budgets, according to Fleisher. The challenge, he says, is to put "somebody else in charge of that 90 per cent" and focus on the business side 10 per cent.

"They need to find partners such as technology enamoured line-of-business executives within their organisations and work with them to come up with some real applications to drive revenue," he said.

"But ironically, 10 years out, the people who built their IT careers [after the IT as a cost cutting tool era] will be the new CEOs," he said. "The new generation of tech executives will not come to the job with 20 years experience in using IT to cut costs but with enthusiasm about using IT to build businesses - they will leapfrog the current generation of tech executives."

Fleisher said that more than 50 per cent of the time when he meets with CEOs it is because the CTO or CIO has called to say "you have to come in and help us with a CEO who does not believe in the revenue side of technology".

Thirty-five-year-old Fleisher describes himself as a nontechnologist and pragmatic business person who doesn't "look at technology issues through the glasses of somebody with 20 years experience in technology".

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