Failure lurks unless CIOs take lead

IT professionals at times are their own worst enemy when it comes to steering the enterprise to success, according to AAPT Ltd. chief executive officer Bob Hennessy.

A near 30-year veteran of the Australian IT landscape, Hennessy said CIOs must get themselves heard at the board table, educate management on architecture and manage project expectations or face continuing failures.

Speaking at CIO Magazine’s Complete CIO conference in Sydney this week, he said IT shops are involved in creating fragmentation and disablement within organizations.

“We haven’t stepped up to the mark to acquit our accountabilities to the businesses that we serve,” he said.

“We aren’t in the right conversations in our businesses very often and when we are, we are not sufficiently able to talk about the real business contribution that we make. When we can talk to that proposition and win the right to execute to it, very often we miss the mark in terms of the sort of strategy or vision our company tries to have and support.”

Hennessy said problems have also stemmed from management expectations focusing too heavily on immediate results of individual projects at the direct expense of a longer-term enterprise strategy.

“The IT translation of the things that matter is expressed in the architecture. The architecture needs to be the thing that governs the way we are building the technology that supports the stated desires of our business. We have to be able to argue that. It’s not just ‘nice to have if only we had the time and the money’,” he said.

“Architecture is the IT representation of the business strategy decision. When someone comes to you and says ‘we are not going to do it because we don’t have time’, my standard response is ‘who gave you permission to subvert the strategy of business?’ We have to be far better at communicating what our value proposition to the business actually is.”

The results of poor execution and ad hoc approaches to IT strategy and architecture lead to predictable and all too familiar outcomes.

Hennessy said evidence of this is the disconnected product silos seen in so many companies, the fragmentation of customer information and inconsistent experiences across the multiple channels that companies go to market with.

“So many enterprises are riding on the back of Excel spreadsheets or access databases that are compensating for the lack of cohesiveness in the way that our core systems present information to our businesses. We need to be able to understand that, communicate it and execute against it,” he said.