Roles of IT Decision makers in Africa
Posted by Michael Chanda on: 2007-05-29 03:32:06
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For many years now a considerable number of IT professionals have been hurled into a sea of ‘new and exciting technologies’. Most, if not all of which are said to be ‘a must have product’, a ‘must deploy application’, a ‘must upgrade operating system’, a phrasing list that could be endless.....
This form of marketing comes with more than just a pinch of salt for those that are tasked with making decisions based purely on their fear of being left behind.
A lot of the professionals working in IT today have inherited legacy systems that more often than not ‘just work’. These professions are in most cases unwilling to drive change because output meets the basic business needs. In the same vein the periodic demands from progressive thinking managing directors and CEO’s does put a strain on the professionals to react and respond by ‘upgrading’ and in some instances ripping and replacing technologies because a competitor has done so. Unfortunately, this knee jerk reaction to pressures from on high is one of many reasons why IT has been unsuccessful in fulfilling task beyond browsing the internet and sending email to mates.
It is not often that key IT professions produce a case for proposing new technologies if the idea was not brought up by someone else, someone more senior and more willing to take risks.
All of this begs the question. How many organisations doing business in Africa today in general have IT personnel or IT professional representation sitting on their boards? How many of those that are playing a key role in helping with steering their corporate ship, providing key input based on calculated risks? I dare say, few if any. Businesses irrespective of where they may be on the globe are naturally expected to be agile, move with the times and be ready to make fast and bold decisions. How are we then expected to achieve any of this if the custodians of corporate data and systems are not present to give advice on better ways to provide systems that will reduce cost, increase productivity and at the end of the day produce profitable returns.
Because of this lack of proper representation and recognition IT professionals often find themselves classed and classified purely as a cost to the business. (Intelligent people looking after printers and removing viruses). To a greater degree one needs to start with asking simple questions, do any policy documents exist, that guide the way in which ones respective organisations works? If yes, who wrote them, when were they adopted, when were they last looked at, studied, reviewed and updated? Most vitally are they adopted by all stakeholders and being used?
It is not a stretch to believe that we all work under the guise that the policies are the basis on which we deploy new technologies today, but we are also aware that, we more often than not react to vendor marketing pressures to determine where we go and what systems we employ, without making reference to the guidelines that are there to protect us from reacting to unnecessary investment. The newest and shiniest devices and applications do not guarantee productivity.
I have on many occasions found myself in an environment where the latest technologies were demanded by IT heads in order to allow them to better compete in an ever challenging market place... good reasoning one would think, but what’s the business case driving this need?
It is not a bad thing to think progressively, but when asked for plans on which these decisions have been made, I have often been handed a one pager stating the need to upgrade, in line with the launch of a new operating system, systems that demand more powerful shiny pieces of hardware.
It is quite apparent that we need to stop and take stock of where we are and where we are going. One way this can be done is with external assistance to change the status quo, the need to move away from reactive operations.
Due consideration needs to be given to bringing in external expertise and taking on the advice they impart. In addition, a shift from previous practice of hiring of a consultant to sit in our organisations for a month, submit a document and then leave. In order to entrench a new forward thinking culture and maintain consistency, we need to employ the skills of external expertise via long term engagements .
Long term engagements are a start to ensure that IT drives better and more efficient business practice and work flow. With these relationships between engaged external professionals and in-house IT personnel it will allow for the best skills sets and faster more efficient decision making processes.
It is vitally important that IT form part of all decision making processes and planning in line with corporate vision and targets. IT leaders in our region need to join those in the rest of the world that are the reason vendors develop new and cutting edge technologies and not the other way around.
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