Transport for London (TfL) CIO Steve Townsend has switched from reporting to its chief financial officer to its chief marketing officer (CMO) underlining how the role of IT leaders is shifting at many organisations.
Townsend explained in an interview with V3 that the shift came about after a conversation with CMO Vernon Everitt and TfL commissioner Mike Brown, and that the change was already well on the way before it was made official in November.
He suggested that the move followed a general change in the role of marketers, which had become more focused on controlling the customer experience and the importance that digital tools and technology have in this remit. As such, bringing IT into this fold made good strategic sense.
Townsend explained that moving to report into Everitt has been a "huge shift" as it changes how the IT team functions and where its focus has to lie.
"It allows us to completely rethink where we're serving technology, how it's used and what it means. The way we talk about technology has completely changed," he said.
"It's about empowering your people with the tools internally and understanding the customer-employee relationship, and you can do that best when you're in the heart of the organisation.
"I'm not saying IT departments in financial teams can't do that. I just think it's slightly easier to think about the customer when you actually live in the department that is the heartbeat of the organisation.
"There are no barriers of understanding who you are, which enables you to get on with the job of solving problems for your organisation."
Despite the changes it caused Townsend said that other organisations should consider a similar structure as the role IT has in business changes.
"I think IT departments would be unwise not to align themselves to that way of thinking," he said.
"It has always been about the customer. Traditional IT teams have [reported] into finance because they're controlling the numbers, and you have to be able to retain [some of] that, but the focus should be on the number one thing and that is people."
The shift shows TfL recognising that it needs to change to meet London's demands, according to Townsend.
"We learned an awful lot during the [2012 London Olympic] Games and the biggest lesson was that you can't stop changing. You have to reinvent yourself and we're doing that with minimal effort," he said.
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