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#PTK - The Right Stuff


The Right Stuff


IT leaders have never been more essential to the success of any organisation – or had more demands heaped upon their shoulders. So how is the role changing, especially in the current climate? What adaptations are necessary to organisations working from home during the lockdown?

In #PTK Issue 72, we explored how IT leaders have never had greater expectations placed upon them than now. There is a general consensus among both practitioners and industry-watchers that everyone responsible for digital technology is being charged with new and demanding responsibilities that surpass the traditional remit of ‘pure IT’. 


There is a growing understanding that those who leverage digital technology to create added business value have the opportunity to play a key strategic role within their organisation, whereas those who concentrate entirely on the more technology-focused aspects of the job may find themselves under threat.

UK CIO, Chris Ashworth from parcel delivery company Hermes, explains the job is about so much more these days than just taking care of the tech. “The role has come a long way and is continually adapting,” he says. “Our role is to understand the business, the market, the customer and to add as much value as possible for our business, customers and clients.”

As Neil Price, the CIO Practice Head at recruitment consultancy Harvey Nash, puts it: “The modern IT leader – the CIO, CTO or whatever we want to call them – is somebody that shouldn’t be in the IT department. They should be absolutely everywhere else.” 

One of the primary gauntlets being laid down by CEOs is that digital technology should now be actively contributing to income-generation within an organisation – as well as performing its more traditional role of driving efficiencies. Taken to the extreme, this can mean that IT would no longer be considered a net cost to the business.

Steve Clarke, Co-founder and Director of Freeman Clarke, who supply fractional IT leaders to a broad range of companies, sees this happening across many organisations. “Technology affects so many different areas and can drive revolution within a business,” he says. “When I talk to my IT leaders who are going in to work with clients, I’m saying we should aim to make ourselves cost-neutral or even cost-positive – but only part of that is by cutting costs and driving efficiency in the business. It’s also about introducing new customers to the business, creating a new revenue stream by creating a digital landscape, working with the sales team to use big data to enable them to target the right people and drive better sales.”

For IT leaders to be able to deliver effectively on this expanding remit, they have to be sure they are positioned correctly within the organisation. They can no longer be simple followers of business strategy who are reactive to demands from elsewhere. 

Dr Ruth Massie, Senior Lecturer in Cyber Resilience Leadership at Cranfield University’s School of Management, comments: “One of the worst things that ever happened to IT was when it became one of those departments you bought services from, as opposed to them being with you on the journey, going places with the organisation. Because they were just service providers, others in the organisation would think, ‘Oh well, I can just buy it cheaper, or I can buy it direct,’ and I think some of that mindset still hangs around some of the older companies.”