Managers need advice on IT

Senior managers in firms need help with their IT decisions if their businesses are going to benefit in the information age, says a new book on IT Management, “Tricks of the Trade”. According to its author, Guy Dresser,  senior managers are not making the best use of information technology because of their lack of IT knowledge, expertise and skills. They do not understand precisely what it is they need, so they are not making the best IT investment.

“Consultants and software get blamed for the problems because the people responsible for IT – the financial directors – do not know their IT market,” said Dresser.

“They need to have a reasonable idea of what they want to do otherwise they are opening themselves up to all sorts of problems. Business management and IT consultancy makes for fertile ground for consultants to come in because people do not understand this area.”

The big IT debate is: does software make firms more competitive? But Dresser says, in his experience, the problem is that firms do not always ask what the benefits of certain software are before they buy. And few software suppliers tell their customers.

“While FDs’ roles have become cross-functional, changing from beancounters to being information managers, their skills in IT development have not kept pace with the rapid changes in business,” he said.

Dresser’s tips for IT buyers are first find out where the business benefits lie in buying a certain type of software, decide on a strategy and then choose a consultant.

“Historically you have large chunks of information flowing across companies,” he said. “Now if you have got data – mining, you can find out how your products are doing geographically, so it improves the quality of decision making, and if your information strategy is mapped out, you can make great efficiencies.”

A version of this article first appeared in Accountancy Age in 1998.