Recently the Berwick Partners Finance Practice held a successful evening reception, bringing together leading figures in Finance from across the North West. As ever we encourage ‘The Chatham House Rule’ at these events as it always brings about healthy debate. But amidst it all was one worrying theme; some of the assembled CFO’s and FD’s got onto the old chestnut of a topic of kicking IT. Rueful mutterings grew into assembled shaking of heads and shrugging of shoulders that ‘every IT project costs £10million and everything runs over; budgets, timescales, the lot’.
In the last decade much of the IT recruitment we have done has been supportive of the movement to deliver a measurable step change away from IT techies running IT. First and foremost, the contemporary IT Director is a senior commercial manager. They run IT as an important second concern. The IT function is how they effect change and delivery. Pleasingly IT is no longer the raison d’etre of the IT Director seat.
This isn’t new news, and for the most part we believe the battle is being won. New breed CIOs and IT Directors are seen as a boardroom peer, with a clear accountability for overall business performance. As such ill budgeted projects, which lack clarity of purpose and timescales are only signed off by an ill informed or ill prepared CFO. In fact in this new world there is no such thing as an ‘IT Project’. Invariably projects involve IT, to a greater or lesser extent. Whole business ownership is key to project and programme success.
As an IT leadership recruiter it would be disingenuous to blindly back IT leaders. I am well aware that there remain some ‘IT for IT’s sake’ merchants out there. Their Ice Age is pretty much upon us, and undoubtedly these guys ought not to be blindly given a set of keys to the Boardroom. But, just as risky is an FD that likes to own IT, keeping it out of the commercial debate, tucked away in the back office.
Technology is ubiquitous. It touches almost every part of a businesses value chain, from automating the supply chain through to enabling more effective customer relationship management. With the right leadership, the IT function can enable, create and deliver services that generate commercial value. This is a long stretch from looking after ‘things with plugs on’. I think even the most jaded FD ought to find that compelling.
Matt Cockbill is a Partner and Head of Technology and Energy, Manufacturing & Infrastructure Practices for Berwick Partners.