The business of IT is about trade-offs and compromise

The business of IT is about trade-offs and compromise

Stakes are much higher today

The business of IT is about compromise and the ability to make constant trade-offs, according to the Commonwealth Banks's CIO and group executive of enterprise IT, Michael Harte.

Outlining the realities and challenges of life as a CIO today, Harte said it's about making the right trade-offs in a conflicting environment.

For example, he said CIOs are juggling tight budgets at a time when customers want increased levels of service at a cheaper rate and with greater privacy.

"Customers want innovation but most organizations are sitting on massive amounts of legacy that represent hundreds of millions of dollars in investment," he said.

Adding to the woes of a CIO, Harte said banks are forced to invest in compliance with no financial return, maintain expensive systems because replacement is too high and find ways to innovate while maintaining Cobol environments.

Harte said there is also the constant struggle to determine which line of business gets priority and the ongoing war to retain and attract talent.

"These are all conflicting issues; customers want Six Sigma quality at Google-click costs," he said.

"I could go on listing all the challenges but you would be bored to tears.

"The bottom line is understanding what to do as an IT management team to contribute to the value of your organization and make decisions that allow it to grow.

"It's about winning that illusive partner trust. Delay a product or deliver something that is too expensive and you can't develop a partnership with business."

Harte believes the stakes today for those undertaking IT projects is much higher than it was previously.

"The cost of getting it wrong is much higher today," he added.

Harte pointed to controversial author Nicholas Carr and Oracle chief Larry Ellison as examples of contemporary thought in the world of IT.

"Carr created an uproar by saying IT has no strategic value and Ellison said it is completely commoditised, they are both pointing to utility models and environments where IT is run close to zero as possible," he said.

"These comments raise all of the classic debates about whether to buy or build, or outsource.

"How much do you pour into maintenance and keep an old legacy environment? Or do you direct funds to new projects, innovation?

"The goal is to try and have sophisticated conversations with business partners," Harte explained.

"IT has to show we are not laggards lumbering along consuming capital."

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