... and into the board­room

Finweek English Edition - - ADVERTORIAL -

THE DAYS OF THE IT depart­ment be­ing tucked away in the base­ment are fi­nally over. That’s the con­tention of Ja­son Goodall, MD of Di­men­sion Data Mid­dle East and Africa. Speak­ing at the Gor­don In­sti­tute of Busi­ness Sci­ence ( GIBS) ‘Build­ing Busi­ness with ICT’ con­fer­ence, Goodall ad­vanced the case that IT has to be in­te­gral to busi­ness strat­egy for those com­pa­nies which will suc­ceed and pros­per in a con­tin­u­ally chang­ing eco­nomic en­vi­ron­ment. And these com­pa­nies of the fu­ture will be run by CEOs and CIOs; the stran­gle­hold the CFO cur­rently wields over costs will take some­thing of a back seat.

“In to­day’s eco­nomic cli­mate, com­pa­nies face a high road and a low road. One means dom­i­na­tion, the other means go­ing out of busi­ness com­pletely,” says Goodall, not­ing that the man­ner in which ICT is han­dled within the or­gan­i­sa­tion will have a ma­te­rial ef­fect on which road is taken.

It is for just this rea­son that GIBS is ad­vanc­ing the in­te­gra­tion of ICT and busi­ness strat­egy, notes Ian James, pro­gramme di­rec­tor for the Vo­da­com In­for­ma­tion and Com­mu­ni­ca­tion Technology Pro­gramme at the busi­ness school. “ The busi­ness lead­ers of to­mor­row can­not go with­out in-depth, strate­gic ICT knowl­edge,” he con­tends.

Con­tin­u­ing, Goodall says there are two ways of look­ing at how ICT value is de­ter­mined. Sim­plis­ti­cally, it is the value of the equip­ment and pro­cesses. The sec­ond view looks at how ICT adds value to the busi­ness. “Un­less ICT is cre­at­ing busi­ness value, it has no pur­pose. The glue is how to link ICT to busi­ness pri­or­i­ties; for ex­am­ple, prod­uct devel­op­ment, in­no­va­tion or im­proved per­for­mance. It is up to the ICT in­dus­try to bridge the gap be­tween merely hav­ing ICT as­sets and ap­ply­ing them to drive growth and per­for­mance.”

Tak­ing a step back to look at how the in­dus­try is pre­par­ing it­self for a changed per­cep­tion of ICT, Goodall says there are ob­vi­ous clues in the mas­sive in­dus­try con­sol­i­da­tion which has taken place in the last five years. “Hard­ware ven­dors are cre­at­ing ser­vices arms; net­work­ing com­pa­nies are mov­ing into the data cen­tre and soft­ware com­pa­nies are in­te­grat­ing their of­fer­ings into the hard­ware layer. This is in­dica­tive of the in­dus­try’s work to bridge that gap be­tween IT as­sets and the value that they can cre­ate in the busi­nesses of the users.”

A peek into his­tory re­veals a chang­ing con­tin­uum: in the 1970s, CIOs didn’t ex­ist and IT was a busi­ness sup­port mech­a­nism fall­ing within the fa­cil­i­ties man­age­ment do­main. “It made no dif­fer­ence in what busi­ness the IT

Vis­it­ing Pro­fes­sor at GIBS, Vo­da­com ICT Pro­gramme; Chair­man, Vo­da­com Foun­da­tion; and

Di­rec­tor, GIBS

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