It's time for the IT crowd to sit at the top table

IT professionals are facing the possibility of boardroom authority for the first time, says Sid Barnes.

by Sid Barnes
Last Updated: 27 Jul 2012

Business technology is continuing to advance at a relentless pace. From the average employee’s desktop PC, through to data centres and the Cloud, there are very few businesses, which are not reliant on technology to function. Equally, there are very few business leaders who don’t look to their IT department to guide them through the latest technical developments. 

For this reason, senior IT professionals and CIOs now have a golden opportunity to make their voices heard at board-level in businesses across the UK. Forward-looking management should value their contribution. With the advance of smartphones and tablets, board members are embracing technology like never before. From enhancing business information to countering the risk of systems failure and cyber attacks, businesses have much to gain from involving high-level IT insight in commercial decisions. 

IT professionals are now in a good position to join the ranks of business leaders. The core skill set of an IT professional includes adaptability, technical awareness, and an inherently organised nature, which can all be counted amongst the best attributes of successful business leaders. 

However, with 90% of the wider IT industry describing communication skills as vital or important for new IT hires, it is clear to see where there is still room for improvement. If these nascent interpersonal skills can be combined with enhanced commercial skills and the ability to work with other sectors of the business, there is no reason why doors should not start opening at the highest level.

Despite the existence of this wide-ranging technical skill set and emerging communications skills, IT has traditionally struggled with its image. Our own research has shown that only 28% of HR directors believe the IT function is an ‘integral part of the decision making process’. 

Based on this evidence, the new generation of IT professional must be willing to step outside their comfort zone and embrace these new opportunities to ensure outdated stereotypes are laid to rest. Mark Zuckerberg, for example, is multi-billion dollar evidence of the potential benefits and success an IT-minded individual can bring to an organisation. ?To this end, the workplace is rapidly becoming a techie paradise, but IT professionals must be willing to advise the business on why IT is now so important, and committed to equipping themselves with the skills to take full advantage of this brave new world.

Sid Barnes is managing director of Modis, a recruitment service for IT professionals. 

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