The Friday Interview: Jeffrey Mann, Gartner Research

20 Jan 2006

Jeffrey Mann, research vice-president of Gartner Research, discusses the changing relationship between the technology department and the boardroom

Is the traditional disconnect between the technology department and the boardroom changing?

It has been an ambition of IT departments for some time now to move higher up the echelons of a business and be taken seriously at a boardroom level. IT departments have to move from mere service provision and being reactive to being involved in the core raison d’etre of a business in terms of being proactive to business events.

Gartner has reported on the advent of the ‘versatilist’, an IT worker that is flexible and involved in other parts of the business. How will this work?

When most business executives think about IT, it’s usually when they forget a password or the printer breaks. If the role of an IT professional in an enterprise is reactive in terms of fixing things when they break, that’s bad. The IT professional going forward will have to be a versatilist: a person that understands the technology but will also be able to understand financial models and operational issues. Someone who may be based on the IT side but also addresses core questions such as: ‘How do we make money?’

Is it possible for IT people to think as businesspeople?

IT people need to be aware that senior executives are reacting to change, investment and growth on a daily basis. By the same virtue IT people are used to talking about efficiencies, return on investments and service level agreements on a daily basis. Those two sets of terms are too far apart. They need to move a little bit closer. I’m talking about synchonicity: terms and behaviours that bridge the gap that both sides are interested in.

Is it an attitude change as well?

Absolutely. When I started my career I met the IT manager of a small software company. I was amazed because he had no idea what the company was doing. He didn’t know or care whether he worked for an insurance company or a software provider or government agency, all he had to do was deploy email addresses. That type of person is useless in a crisis.

By John Kennedy

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