Stop blaming IT, CIO tells business chiefs

St. George Bank Chief Information Officer John Loebenstein has delivered a peppery wake-up call to business leaders to stop blaming the IT department for project failures and take some responsibility for poor management culture themselves.

Delivering a speech to the METAmorphosis conference in Sydney today, Loebenstein told an audience of his peers that it was about time that the IT broke out of the blame game which all too often saw it carry the can for the failures of others. “You have to ask if there are clearly defined strategies and goals within an organization. If you don’t have these, there’s no point in criticizing IT.

“You have to ask if there are a few egocentric business unit leaders peddling their own bicycles. We are the ones that get blamed for a lot of ills; we have to (get a place at the boardroom table). Business has to realize that (an IT) project often has more non-IT related costs than IT costs – you’ll find it’s less than half.”

Loebenstein said that failures were often due to poor corporate culture and structure where businesses failed to instill the goals of the enterprise in individual units. All too often IT has been called into a project when key decisions had been made and were problematic to reverse.

“It’s time for business to stop pointing the finger at IT and align with the business too. Where’s IT (when decisions are made)? They are not even in the room (yet) I’m pressed to find any business where IT is not a strategic enabler. It’s why we should be at the table. IT is not something like pizza that you order in at one o’clock in the morning.”

Loebenstein said that IT departments were often their own worst enemy, warning technologists not to “speak in acronyms and technospeak” to management.

As for taking on projects that were poorly thought out or planned, Loebenstein offered tough love and inclusive language as a remedy.

“Just refuse to do projects that will result in finger pointing. Be an agent for change. Insist on shared responsibility across the business. It’s not IT’s fault, it’s the business’ fault. We have to use the idiom that there are no IT projects, there are only business projects,” he said.