Fordway Blog

Is the IT strategist an endangered species?

[fa icon="calendar"] Jul 23, 2019 8:34:54 AM / by Richard Blanford

strategyHeard about the chief executive who’s confident that his organisation has 24x7 IT support, but doesn’t realise that this relies on one of two key people answering their phone at 2am if something goes wrong?

Or the CIO who wondered why his IT improvement programme wasn’t improving reliability – until he discovered that projects were signed off when software had been installed, rather than when it was actually being used to improve performance?

These are just two of the examples we’ve come across which illustrate the growing gulf between ‘techies’ and senior management, particularly in medium sized organisations. There are problems on both sides of the divide.

In many organisations, tight budgets have meant that those with strategic skills have been squeezed out and the entire IT department is focused on keeping the existing infrastructure running. Many IT leaders simply don’t have the time to step back from operations and think strategically, or the expertise and vision to plan several years ahead. There is no-one who can explain to non-technical directors why they need specific resources and the risk to the business if certain things are not done.

Meanwhile senior managers frequently have unrealistic expectations of IT change. Without an understanding of the size and scope of their existing estate, they expect change to be much faster and don’t realise the issue involved in replacing legacy systems. Like turning an oil tanker, it takes time to change IT infrastructure, and the risks have to be evaluated carefully against the potential benefits.

The problem becomes worse as organisations employ chief digital officers who may not have used many of the systems on which their organisation depends, but rely on them to do their job. So is the IT strategist becoming an endangered species?

I believe the most senior IT person in an organisation has three roles, which in larger organisations are now being formally separated:

  • Keep the organisational IT service running efficiently and effectively (Head of IT)
  • Lead and assist business improvement and transformation, as most involve process or information digitisation (Chief Digital Officer/Head of Transformation)
  • Provide insight and value to make better business decisions and potentially provide new products and services (‘true’ CIO).

How are medium-sized organisations tackling this, if they no longer have the strategic skills in-house or the time to think strategically? We’ve seen several different solutions work effectively.

Some organisations employ a part-time or interim CIO who is one step removed from day to day operations and can provide the strategic insights and vision to take the business forward. Others turn to a trusted third party to help them develop their roadmap for the future, or to review and validate their decisions. Such independent advice can be invaluable even for an experienced CIO.

A third solution is for the in-house IT team to focus on strategy, policy and bespoke applications, and to buy in core services, technical support and administration from third parties on an as-needed basis. With everything from infrastructure to software now available as a service, the CIO can become much more of a business role, managing risk and looking for new ways to use technology to gain competitive advantage.

Fordway is currently supporting all of these scenarios: using our experience to be a strategic advisor; providing experts to validate specific decisions and advise on best practice; and providing technical support from our 24x7 Helpdesk. If you’d like a chat with one of our experienced consultants, please get in touch.

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There’s no one size fits all, and the issue is further complicated by the ‘d’ word – digital transformation. We’ll look at how to tackle this in our next blog.

Topics: Insider, IT Strategy, IT Transformation