Since 2004, Visa Europe CIO Steve Chambers has devoted his efforts to building a payments system for the company to see it into the 21st Century.\nThere's\u00a0still much to do, but for Chambers, the last six years \u2013 a sizeable chunk of time to be on one project for any CIO \u2013 does not weigh heavy. His zeal for the project and the company is unmistakable and he readily admits that he sees it as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that no IT leader in their right mind would pass up.\n\u201cSix years has flashed by. I\u2019m privileged to work for Visa. It\u2019s a fantastic way to work for a company that has a proven role in soc\u00adiety. The company has a high level of social and corporate responsibility in place.\n\u201cThe brief I\u2019m given to build a payments platform, it\u2019s an opportunity that comes up once in every 10 years.\u201d\nIt\u2019s a dream for a CIO to work on a project that forms the basis of a company\u2019s strategy for the future, he says. The \u00adattention that it demands from the board is absolute and makes the CIO a true business peer, not merely a service provider.\n\u201cThe organisation is fully aligned to my mission and has given me the freedom and support to deliver what I\u2019ve been asked. It doesn\u2019t get any better than that,\u201d he says.\nAnd this is the space Chambers has worked to get into.\nTypically for many game-changing CIOs he came into IT from a left-field start. He started working life as a science and games teacher after graduating with a deg\u00adree in astrophysics in 1981. After a brief spell in IT support at Commercial Union, he went back to academia to resume his studies in physics, but he found the pace as a research scientist too slow.\nWhen he joined EDS in 1984, he moved into an area of technology that has dominated his life so far \u2013 payments. He continued on the services side of technology in a number of EDS companies, including Sema, Tandem and ACI, until he decided to move closer to in-house operations.\n\n\u201cWhen I left ACI it was to become a CEO or CIO of a blue-chip company. I wanted to be closer to the business. At EDS, I was in a space in the supply chain,\u201d he says.\nEven so, he thinks his time at the supplier gave him the skills to become a business-aligned head of IT. Involvement with marketing and sales gave him a reasonably rounded view of what IT needs to provide.\nChambers\u2019 view is that too many IT dep\u00adartments are seen as merely internal service providers of utility facilities and that that is the fault of the IT leader.\n\u201cIt depends on the personality of the IT team. IT is seen as the victim, often being beaten up by other business units. My perspective is that they\u2019ve got sidelined into the customer-supplier relationship.\n\u201cIT teams need to seize the initiative when it comes to the relationship they have with other business units in the company. They have to be proactive in creating technology-based solutions for business problems, not wait around for demands to be delivered to them.\u201d\nChambers insists IT teams should push back on other units\u2019 requirements if they think they can solve a business problem in a better way. But that requires the IT team to have sufficient knowledge and understanding of the business\u2019s challenges in the market so that they can challenge other business units on their own ground.\n\u201cMy experience is that the customer is rarely right. It takes a good challenge to make sure the solution gets shaped. IT people\u00ad need to stand peer-to-peer with other business units.\u201d\nNaturally, Chambers takes that combative stance outside of work. He has always been a keen sportsman, going to a rugby-playing school and being in the football (he calls it soccer) team at Leicester University. He now supports Wasps rugby team and Manchester United FC. He\u2019s a keen judoka and a self-confessed ski addict.\nNor does he let others lounge about while he\u2019s exercising, encouraging colleagues and suppliers to get involved too. Last year he organised a charity cycle ride from Brussels to Frankfurt over three days with 10 suppliers and 40 staff. It raised \u00a385,000 for Visa\u2019s chosen charities.