by Mark Chillingworth

CIOs face difficult choice of Chancellor

Mar 29, 2010
IT Leadership

Last night’s Channel 4 debate TV show Ask the Chancellors demonstrated what a difficult choice CIOs face. With the economy the dominant issue in this year’s election all C-level voters are going to be considering how the economy is managed. For CIOs in the private sector a government that delivers growth will be essential to free up funds across the organisation. Public sector CIOs on the other hand face a period of prolonged public funding cuts, no matter who wins the election. What will interest public sector CIOs is not only the level of cuts, but the government that looks to be innovative with public services at lower financial levels, in other words, greater use of IT to deliver vital public services. So how did the potential Chancellors perform? This was a golden opportunity for Shadow Chancellor George Osborne to knock down the policies and performance of the current Labour government. He failed. Osborne had no clear policies, seemed uncomfortable on issues of economics (pretty important to a Chancellor) and crumbled like a boxer with a glass jaw bone when challenged by Chancellor Alistair Darling and Lib Dem rival Vincent Cable. Not only that, but on the issue of bankers bonuses, Osborne singled out Barclays for criticism. The facts are, Barclays never received government funding and by the rules of the free market the Conservatives love, they are free to do as they wish. It seemed a poorly researched and poorly understood response. Cable of the Liberal Democrats certainly won the hearts of the studio audience receiving wide applause and being the best performer at the sound bites and witty ripostes. He was able to challenge both and dealt with his mansion tax proposals honestly, but was quick to gloss over cuts. Surprisingly, Alistair Darling did well. He’s the boring man of politics, I and most have ignored, but he dealt with difficulties well, communicated clearly and seemed to really want to stay in the job to see if he can navigate the national economy out of the mess it is in. Monitoring the audience’s responses, Darling is the face of the credit crisis and there is little sympathy for him, no matter how good a communicator he is. He was the only member of the debate who disagreed with changes to the way banks are regulated and this will not have won him favour with the public. Overall he performed well, but is unlikely to have won over floating voters. CIOs know how important a refresh of management, ideas and advisors is, but they also know that experience matters. Choosing a new government will not be easy and last night’s debate almost made the decision harder.