IT directors need to do a better job of managing business expectations and selling their successes if the gap between business and IT is to be bridged.
Dropping the acronyms and talking in business terms about technology were identified as key to addressing IT's poor reputation in other departments, according to attendees at a roundtable discussion on the growing digital divide between IT and the boardroom.
Chris Jones, director of IT at pharmaceuticals giant GlaxoSmithKline, said the business focus would also help address inherent scepticism towards IT projects and the alarmingly high proportion of IT project failures across the industry.
He said that many businesses mistakenly believed IT alone would be enough to solve their problems without considering the people and process changes needed to make a project succeed, he said.
"When companies invest in IT they have to change the way they work," Jones said. "You need IT leaders on the board, not technologists.
"There's a huge challenge in explaining what change is possible [using IT]. To be effective IT people have got to stop being geeks and start being leaders," he added.
IT projects that did not receive full support from the board were doomed to failure and should be pulled immediately, Jones warned.
Jonathan Cummings, director of e-marketing at the Institute of Directors, said business had to shoulder some of the blame for the digital divide. He said the onus was also on business people to increase their IT understanding.
"On the executive board there's a lack of understanding that has caused scepticism and a reluctance for the board to engage," Cummings said.
"Even if a project is sold in, if it's not sponsored by everyone on the board it will fail. There should be more ownership of delivering IT from the business," he added.
"The language gap between IT and the business will always be there, but there's also a time gap between business cycles and IT cycles that are a lot longer," said Jones.
"You don't want to replace something like IT infrastructure every six months and that's a gap that IT has to bridge," he added.
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