CIO Alert: Five Cures for What Ails IT

IT groups often struggle to stay efficient as a business grows and evolves. Here are five tips for CIOs needing to improve budgeting and vendor relationships and align IT and business priorities. First step: Go to lunch.

Thu, September 01, 2011

CIO — Your IT department may be armed with bright and ambitious employees, but that doesn't mean the group will be efficient.

As with most departments, there are just as many causes for IT ineffectiveness as there are symptoms. And the IT group must be prepared to adjust to forces that are sometimes out of its control, whether it's changes in the business model that put more pressure on IT, poor vendor selection or having a CIO who has trouble understanding the letters ROI.

"With every failure it is easy to spot a multitude of potential causes," says John Baschab, senior VP of management services at Technisource, a tech staffing and services company with clients ranging from the mid-market to Fortune 500 companies.

The four main reasons for IT ineffectiveness, says Baschab, are: Business turmoil such as rapid revenue growth or a merger, which forces more demand on IT; poor selection and weak management of vendors; inexperienced and insular management style that alienates the IT team from the business; and poor financial and risk management (i.e. not understanding the link between IT costs and the benefits).

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But there are cures for IT ineffectiveness, and Technisource's Baschab has five tips for CIOs and the non-technical executive who manage CIOs (usually the CFO or CEO) on how to align IT and the business in such a way that helps the company grow and succeed.

Improve IT Management

Step one in improving IT management is to form an IT steering committee that can bridge the worlds of IT and the business. This committee would typically be made up of internal executives with an interest in IT's success who also have influence within the company to promote change.

"Most often the committee is made up of the CEO and his or her direct reports," says Baschab, "but can also include other influential leaders within the company."

The steering committee should serve as a "virtual CIO" to provide advice to the CIO and quickly resolve issues between the business and IT. The committee should also be responsible for hiring the IT management staff, and making sure a real manager is in charge, not just a senior programmer, says Baschab.

"Cleaning up the IT org chart is the best place to start," he adds. "There should be no floating boxes and clear lines of responsibility."

Project Management Discipline

Here, CIOs need to establish a master list of upcoming projects, determine the ROI of each project, and then prioritize all projects by their business benefit, says Baschab.

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