COMPUTER BUSINESS REVIEW

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TECHNEWS

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Issue Date: July 2007

Who is accountable for IT?

1 July 2007
Chris Wilkins, joint-MD of DVT Cape Town

The question of who takes responsibility for IT within an organisation does not have a generic answer. What is most important is that someone is responsible for making sure that all IT expense can be justified in terms of what it does for the business.
IT provides a service to business. In order to fully exploit technology, it is necessary to employ or consult with professionals who understand what benefit is associated with each technical component. These professionals must understand how easy specific technologies are to implement and what the initial and ongoing costs will be thereafter.
The ease of implementing any given technology depends on two primary factors: securing the skills of technologists and identifying how easy it will be for the current workforce to adopt and use.
Securing professional technologists who have the right skills can be easy for mainstream technologies and extremely difficult for marginal technologies.
Understanding how easy it will be for the current workforce to implement a technology solution depends on how much complexity they will be asked to absorb. For example, an implementation of a local and well used accounting software package will be easy because only a small percentage of the workforce is affected, and the functionality involves globally understood accounting principles. There will also be plenty of available local expertise to assist in the exercise. Conversely, a new policy administration solution that completely changes the way business activities are processed will not be an easy implementation for the business to embrace.
Once availability of technical skills and ease of implementation are understood, a full analysis of cost must be undertaken so that decision-makers can decide which of the proposed technology solutions justify the related expense.
Split responsibility
Therefore, the responsibility for IT, and all the related activities, is a split role. There is an ongoing responsibility to understand what the business is trying to achieve, what the various technologies can do to help, and whether or not to buy them. Then there is a more technical responsibility to implement, maintain, and improve the technological tasks associated with the solution.
Any person in charge of revenue-generating activities at a senior level should have the responsibility of understanding what the business is trying to do and what portion should be spent on technology to achieve this. This person is not someone who has detailed technical expertise; they would typically have business responsibilities and titles like CEO, COO, GM or business unit manager. Only then, once a decision to buy technology has been made, should a person be nominated to take responsibility for the specific technology used to provide the technical component of the solution.
The technical responsibility can be associated with the traditional role of IT manager. This person provides specialist input during the understanding and costing phase, but has to take complete responsibility for the implementation and subsequent maintenance activities. Alternatively, the IT manager may use a project or programme manager to take responsibility for each cyclical implementation of technology used to satisfy the technical needs of each business initiative.
For more information contact Chris Wilkins, DVT Cape Town, +27 (0)21 467 5400, cwilkins@dvt.co.za


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