IT needs to show it means business

IT needs to show it means business

The IT industry must fight for the recognition it deserves if technology is to be taken seriously in the business world, says Mark Samuels

What is the IT department actually responsible for? Technology experts are keen to suggest responsibility for a range of IT issues should pass to “the business”.

Take data quality, for example, which sounds like a core technology issue. Not so, says Gartner analyst and research vice president Ted Friedman: “Data quality is a business issue, not an IT matter, and it requires the business to take responsibility and drive improvements.”

Friedman suggests a marketing specialist should act as a data steward, keeping data “complete, correct, consistent, honest and not redundant”.

What about service-oriented architecture (SOA), which is a complex issue at the best of times and involves specific concentration on data and integration.

Once again, the business is crucial, says IDC research manager Jan Duffy: “The lines between IT and business are so blurred that they almost do not exist when it comes to adopting something like SOA.”

I could go on ­ comments about the business needing to run technology, or technology being part of the business, are common.

But are such sentiments get out of jail cards; basically a simple, shorthand method for explaining away a complex IT issue?

Worse, is the industry doing itself a disservice and helping to hasten the demise of the IT organisation and a series of senior technology positions?

Further investment in business technology and skills could boost the UK economy by £35bn, according to the latest research from sector skills council e-Skills UK.

The IT sector is expanding at such a rate that 140,000 new staff will be needed annually for the next five years to fill high-level positions, on top of the 1.5 million people already employed in the industry.

But two significant problems are manifest: many students are not interested in IT and many firms are not taking technology seriously enough.

UK applications to IT-related degrees have fallen by 50 per cent in the past five years. And just 35 per cent
of technology leaders now report to the chief executive, according to Harvey Nash and PA Consulting.

Nothing is going to improve until the IT industry starts taking itself seriously and recognises technology matters for business, not the other way round.