Who Is in Charge of Technology?


Who's in charge of technology?


This sounds like an easy question, but it may be one of the most important decisions your firm makes. In some firms the name of the person will be obvious, while in other firms people may name multiple names or simply say, "no one is really in charge."

Even in firms where the title makes it obvious, you should ask, "Do we have the right person in today's economy and rapidly changing technology? Hopefully the answer is "yes," but let's answer some probing questions before simply accepting the current person in the IT leadership position.

Partner Insights

* Effective. Does the right things?

* Efficient. Does things right?

* Able to paint a clear vision of the future of IT in the firm?

* A good communicator and capable of removing obstacles?

* A good motivator of IT staff and end-users?

* Capable of persuading others that non-critical projects shouldn't be pursued?

* Trusted and respected by the partners to negotiate for adequate resources to meet the IT requirements of the firm's strategic plan?

* Able to build a unique team with the right aptitudes and skills?

* Passionate about training IT staff as well as the end-users?

* Committed to standardization of processes?

Your first reaction may be you don't see anything about technical skills. IT has matured over the past 25 years, like automobiles. In the early days, drivers had to be part mechanic and part driver to ensure success. Today, anyone can drive without mechanical knowledge. The same holds true for technology. A great IT leader is not enamored with the "how," but interested in "what" should be done. Rising beyond technical skills is a challenge for many IT professions. With that said, it does help to have a good understanding of the capabilities and trends in technology.

An IT person is not just an IT person

The firm drives IT strategy. IT strategy should not drive the firm. Your IT leader should be an integral part of the firm's management team. IT cuts across all aspects of the firm and the lack of IT strategy in any area can be very dangerous. This includes front- stage and back-stage operations such as the firm's own internal systems. Many of these systems lack proper integration and were designed based upon applications rather than on workflow, processes and an integrated system.

Your IT leader must be capable of managing change as IT continues to transform firms at an increasing pace. This requires significant communication skills that technical IT personnel often don't have.

The following action plan will assist your firm in determining if you have the right IT leader, and if not, what you can do to find the appropriate purpose.

* Honestly answer the 10 questions presented earlier.

* Conduct an IT management review of the firm's team and strategies.

* If you don't have the right person, identify and select your IT leader.

* Utilize external consulting and coaching for the IT Leader to develop the appropriate skills.

* Make certain the firm's IT plan is driven by the firm's strategic plan.

Many firms are trying to reduce IT expenditures during difficult economic times. I believe today there are many investment opportunities for those firms with focused IT strategies that are willing to change their processes, train their people and take advantage of current and future technology.

Too often partners and end-users think only about the cost of the desktop computer or notebook they personally use. This normally runs approximately 5 percent to 6 percent of the entire IT budget. Deferring upgrading desktops and notebooks probably isn't going to have a negative impact on your firm. What will impact the firm negatively is if they don't change their processes to better utilize their existing technology, set standards and train to those standards.

Also focus on high-priority projects and eliminate unnecessary ones. Doing the right projects is the key to effectiveness. Doing projects well is the key to efficiency.

The right IT leader will ensure effectiveness and efficiency both happen.

Gary Boomer, CPA, is the president of Boomer Consulting, in Manhattan, Kan.

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