Get a group of senior IT professionals together and the talk often turns to the frustrations of their role.
You often hear frustrated remarks that “IT is always being lectured about aligning itself with the business, but the business doesn’t understand IT.”
The result is, many feel, that IT leaders are banging up against an artificial ceiling on their career.
In the Whitehall and Westminster it is certainly true that “the business” doesn’t understand IT. How many public sector IT disasters could have been avoided if someone – be they IT directors or outsourcers - had simply told ministers that their plans for Tax Credits or the the NHS or farm payments were too complicated to automate in a cost effective manner.
Elsewhere organisations really do get IT. Retailer Burberry this week decided to delay parts of its SAP roll out because it did not want to suffer the dip in productivity that always initially accompanies the deployment of a major enterprise system.
The stock market and the financial press panned the company, yet many IT professionals will regard it as making a very sensible decision.
The IT director had the ear of the board and could report in a timely manner on the impact of the next phase of the infrastructure renewal programme. The board did a cost benefit analysis and decided the extra cost of delaying the IT project was more than offset by the profits on today’s current booming trading.
Which brings us back to the public sector and the career limits on IT professionals. This week HM Revenue and Customs’ chief information officer Steve Lamey was appointed the organisation’s new chief operating officer. He might not be Chancellor of the Exchequer, but it is a pretty powerful job for an IT director - albeit a high flyer.
Maybe, from his elevated position, he can talk some sense into the politicians and old school Whitehall mandarins.
Maybe. It would be nice. In fact it is essential. I just can’t believe it will happen…
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