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Issue of June 2005 

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State of IT Management

Streamlining IT Management

As a CIO’s role becomes more important, so does that of the IT team. by Deepali Gupta

Executive Summary
Streamlining IT Management

As the CIO has gone from being the team leader of a support function to a decision-maker, IT teams have formed a definite structure that ensures the ownership of responsibilities.

Power Pill

A streamlined and cohesive IT team can be the backbone of an enterprise.

Last year we dedicated our lead story to the ‘Changing Role of the CIO.’ Through the year, we have communicated to you that the CIO has moved from a function head to a strategic head. However, little has been said about the dynamics that IT teams have been subjected to.

IT teams continue to be nuclear, for 63 percent of organisations’ team strength is under 25 people. A bit over half the organisations surveyed anticipate that their teams will either stay the same or shrink. This is surprising—as businesses grow, shouldn’t there be a greater need for IT staff?

For instance, at Hindustan Construction Company (HCC), the management has assigned the final responsibility of IT projects to business heads. Says Satish Pendse, CIO, HCC, “At each of our project sites, we have IT co-ordinators who provide IT support to the site, apart from doing their other responsibilities. Respective heads of departments take up the responsibility of implementation and roll-out.”

In HCC’s system, the IT co-ordinator is from the IT department and the project ownership belongs to the departmental (business) head. This approach is a great way of working around a small IT team, as it ensures user buy-in at every stage of an implementation. This leads to easy adoption.

Quality matters

Teams may be shrinking, but hierarchy and levels of growth for IT staff seem rosier than they did some years ago. Today the presence of IT starts right from the top as CIOs are involved in board meetings and strategic decision-making.

Almost 50 percent of the time, the CIO has the final say in IT decisions. Unlike in the past where everyone was a systems analyst, and there was one project leader (now called CIO) who reported to the CFO, or some subsection of the business, today’s IT teams have a definite hierarchy that starts with the CIO. Two or three senior members report to this person. A large part of the IT team can be classified as middle management. 43 percent of new employees who will be hired this fiscal will be for this slice of the IT team.

IT is important, but is it valuable?

Research highlights
  • 77 percent of respondents consider technical skills as the strength of the IT team.
  • Lack of agility is deemed as an impediment by 16 percent.
  • IT is viewed as a strategic asset by 30 percent.
  • 52 percent of organisations measure IT investment in relation to a project’s completion on time.
  • For about 50 percent of IT-related decision-making, the CIO’s word is final.

Assigning ownership of IT projects to business function heads may be the formula for some successful deployments as the senior management of 44 percent of respondents believe that IT is a necessary expense. This nonchalant attitude towards IT is also reflected in the criteria used to measure IT investment. The most popular way to do so is whether or not a project was completed on time, and whether customer satisfaction improved.

This is perhaps why budgeting is a problem among IT teams. 52 percent of respondents see cost constraints as a weakness of the IT department. Nevertheless, many agree that some additional costs in the IT department are cleared on as needed basis. Fortunately a fair number (30 percent) of respondents say that their senior management believes that IT investment is strategic.

Boon or bane

Ironically, the ready availability of people in this field is both a boon and a bane depending on how you view it. “The edge India has over the rest of the world is because of readily-available manpower. Finding people possessing the right skill sets and keeping these updated is the trick,” explains

M D Agrawal, Chief Manager, IS Refinery, BPCL. A concern that a number of senior managers have expressed is that even if someone familiar with contemporary technology is recruited, he may be unable to cope with the flood of new technologies washing over IT’s shores.

Training is a possible solution to that problem, but not everyone is open to learning. Besides, the motivation of an IT team depends on the way that they are perceived and treated by the rest of the organisation. For that, users must also adapt to new technologies.

Things to watch For

Two situations can make or break IT management. The first is all about how knowledgeable the senior management is across functions. The second is the rapport that exists between team members and end-users. With these two in place, organisations can develop focussed and well-organised IT teams that will function as a backbone for the company.

Deeepali Gupta can be reached at

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