Is in-career training worth it?

The recession has brought fresh opportunities for CIOs as more businesses turn to IT as an engine for recovery and growth. But defining and articulating the proposition to the board may be a challenge that some CIOs still struggle with and leadership training could offer a helping hand.

In the US, an MBA has long been recog­nised as a milestone to senior leadership and there’s a growing appetite for further business study in the UK. The Association of Business Schools (ABS) reports spectacular growth in students taking postgraduate qualifications and MBAs.

Business and management courses have seen a 94 per cent rise over the last 14 years: MBA students number around 32,000 with around a third studying full-time, a third part-time and a third by distance learning. Around 2500 students are registered on executive MBA programmes.

But MBAs are expensive, and the investment in time may be even more of a consideration for the over-busy CIO than the cost. However, an executive MBA can be fitted around a day job without having to take a year out, and more business schools are ­offering shorter, customised leadership programmes.

Professor Joe Peppard, director of Cranfield School of Management’s IT Leadership Programme, describes his course as an incubator for aspiring CIOs. Adrian Ford’s story, below, appears to be an endorsement of the format for those wanting quick results and without the appetite or purse for a full-blown MBA.

Our series of interviews with senior IT executives illustrate a variety of available business education options — and more importantly, the return on their investment.

1 The quick win
- Adrian Ford, European IS manager, Church & Dwight UK
- School: Lancaster University Management School
- Course: MBA full-time, one-year (2008)
- Cost (current): £25,000. Self-funded
- Previous job title: contractor

What was your motivation?
One hundred per cent career progression. The economic climate was a key factor: firms were starting to lay off contractors at the start of the recession. As a contractor I had focused on project management and business­ change, and I had worked through a series of mid-sized businesses, rolling out projects and change.

Why this course?
Because I was funding it myself, the course needed to be intense and over as quickly as possible. As I had no financial support, price was a key factor. I costed every element of different MBAs and Lancaster was absolutely the top as far as price per ranking point was concerned. Its proximity to my home in the North West helped affordability, of course.

What’s the ROI?
I calculated the MBA would pay for itself in approximately three years. My strategy was that given the difficult economy, I would stick to my skills set and go for a bigger and better job. That has been 100 per cent successful as I took a job as head of IT for Europe with pharmacy products supplier, Church & Dwight, in March 2010. The CIO who hired me also has an MBA, and it was ­undoubtedly a point in my favour.

Any other collateral?
Now, I’m better able to plan for the longer term and scope IT for the direction of the organisation, including which suppliers to choose and how to spend budget. My deeper knowledge of different functions helps my communication; I feel much more comfortable having a conversation with a marketing director for example as I have a better understanding of those needs. One of the biggest takeaways of the MBA has been the marketing component that I can bring to my IT role. I proactively gauge customer satisfaction and use that to improve and market the service I provide.

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