Over the years, IT has been perceived as a supporting organization in most companies. However, the same companies today realize that the IT department today has to be involved in making key business decisions.
And one such company is Johnson & Johnson (Philippines) Inc. where the IT department has taken on a new role. It has become a strategic partner to the business — far beyond being just a back-office entity with purely operational support functions.
“While I cannot speak from a Johnson & Johnson historical perspective, I can see that our IT department has transformed from being purely a back-room operations support to being in the front-end,” says Sadiq Rowther, regional IT director for ASEAN markets at Johnson & Johnson.
According to Rowther, people have traditionally perceived IT to have a mainly support function and he acknowledges that it does take a while for the business to understand that IT can take more than just a support function.
“That’s a typical challenge that we face because we need to spend time to build (IT’s) credibility to the business. It’s very important that IT establishes itself, that we are not doing technology for technology’s sake but really — how do we move the business forward?” he elaborates.
The IT director believes, however, that IT has already gradually been transforming over the years not only in J&J but across many companies and industries as well, but he adds that this transformation can be more pronounced among large corporations where IT managers participate in customer interfaces, understand the trade and marketplace better and, therefore, are able to adapt to the changes in a smarter way.
This transformation of IT from having a supporting role to becoming an enabler and a partner to the business is largely dependent on the IT head or the CIO. According to Rowther, while thinking like a business owner and understanding the business is an absolute essential, he could not pretend to be the best sales or Finance guy on the team.
“The value I bring to the leadership team is really how IT can seize a business opportunity and bring abou a solution that uses a combination of both business and IT skills,” he explains.
He adds that the CIO has to be part of the growth strategy and agenda as IT plays a key role in delivering both the top and bottom line growth of the company. What has helped Rowther gain better understanding of the business and the importance of aligning IT’s goals with that of the business is management’s support and acknowledgement of the need for IT and business to work together.
“I sit in the ASEAN Leadership Team headed by our ASEAN President Grace Casta