According to one of the next-generation CIOs, IT people underestimate the influence they already have, and it can therefore be counter-productive.
The other day I had lunch with Marc O’Brien, CIO of BUPA Hospitals (soon to become Spire Healthcare) in London, England. Marc is one of the next-generation CIOs, not content with being the quasi-supplier of technology services that I’ve written about before. He’s a fount of insights, not least about business culture and behaviors, and this time was no exception.
I’d previously worked with him when he was IT Investment Director at the airports company BAA. We often argued tooth-and-claw about tactics, which sometimes disguised – especially to others – consensus on underlying principles and on the ultimate goal. Given the pace of change in the business environment, arguments about tactics are, as I learned long ago, a feature of a healthy strategy.
This time, we were talking about IT people and influence. He pointed out that many people in IT departments have more influence over business decisions and behaviors than they think. As a result, they don’t craft and exploit this influence, so it’s often counter-productive. Putting it another way, they are unintentionally influencing their colleagues in the wider business to behave in a way that does nobody any good.
It’s a frequent complaint of IT people that they don’t have enough influence. Marc’s assertion, which I would unreservedly endorse from working with him and others, is that we already have more influence than we apparently know how to use.
What’s required is a step back, to explore our current influence model and re-craft it, in some cases quite radically. Then, the better we use the influences we already have, the more we’re likely to be given.