Undervalued, underinvested and underutilised: FIFA’s attack on Brazil World Cup IT is same old story

FIFA recently made a bold and demoralising statement, predicting that the Brazilian authorities would fail to install a sufficient IT infrastructure in time for the pending World Cup. This struck fear in to the hearts of millions of football supporters worldwide, who now believe there’s a risk they won’t be able to watch the matches live.

We can only imagine the stress and pressure that’s on the IT teams responsible for ensuring the World Cup venues’ IT networks will be more than adequate in time for kick off.

What FIFA and the Brazilian authorities’ other critics don’t realise is that IT professionals are adept at working under pressure and in crisis mode.

Getting pipes down in time for the games and installing the software required to run on them won’t be a complex job – the industry is well used to having to fire fight and roll-out solutions at a moment’s notice, and the Brazilians will follow a tried and tested blueprint similar to that used at previous World Cups and Olympic Games the world over.

But it’s a pity that yet again IT has been treated from the start as an operational bolt-on, rather than a strategic enabler.

C-level disconnect

It’s a situation we see repeatedly with organisations of all sizes, where IT and its professionals are routinely undervalued, underinvested and thus underutilised. 

The majority of CEOs claim that they value innovation and compliance – two areas in which IT is clearly intrinsic – and a recent study by Forrester Research showed that 50% of CEOs make it a critical or high priority for IT to expand the use of data and analytics within their businesses.

>See also: Changing roles: the CIO as transformer

Yet, IT still remains an outsider when it comes to driving business strategy. Only 39% of CEOs claim to have a digital strategy that innately aligns information management with their overall business strategy, according to Gartner’s 2013 CEO and Senior Executive Survey.

The result: in the other 61% of businesses, CIOs are not being allowed to deliver the value that is possible. The businesses they serve are likely less connected, less collaborative, less competitive and less sustainable as a direct result.

Indeed, a recent survey published by Deloitte Consulting LLP revealed that the average CIO is only able to spend half the time he or she would like to on strategy (22% rather than 41%), because their time is so consumed by fire fighting and day-to-day, tactical operations.

The only way this cycle can be broke is through strategic planning; knowing the long and short-term challenges and goals, and then finding scalable solutions that can help overcome and attain those whilst tangibly contributing to the business’s continued growth and development.

However, there are three common obstacles standing in the way of IT teams and a strong plan.

Particularly during the recent downturn(s), many business leaders tended towards cost cutting and efficiency, rather than innovation and value creation.  The consequences are oftentimes fragmented, complex and difficult to manage IT kit and processes, which are not only consuming the resources of the IT team but which have created a situation that is difficult to see an easy route out of.

The IT industry as a whole moves at such a pace, it’s a full time job just keeping up with all the new products, solutions and innovations flooding the market. If IT is busy just fighting fires, how can any self-respecting IT professional be expected to find the time to keep up to date with what’s hot and what’s not, or to think about how it could impact their business? And where do you find decent, rounded and independent advice?

As already mentioned, a vast proportion of business leaders simply don’t understand or value IT – and to anyone outside the profession, IT seems like a whole separate universe with a different language and culture.

>See also: 5 trends that will make or break the CIO

The IT channel can be a great place to look for impartial and expert advice. Not only on how best to overcome the challenges the business is facing, but also how to communicate the best route forward in a language that CEOs will instantly appreciate and which clearly reiterates their own needs and objectives.

Long reign the CIO

Two IT teams that have recently taken back control in their organisations and are now proudly driving transformation in their businesses: hygiene product supplier Zenith and education and training firm BPP.

At Zenith, a more strategic mind-set has transformed the way in which the firm now procures technology. Rather than automatically buying laptops or desktops every time a new member of staff joins the team, Zenith’s IT team took time out to strategically profile employee types across the organisation. 

It now has a clear view of the profiles it hires, of the responsibilities held by different employee types, and thus of the IT functionality they require to fulfil their roles.  This simple exercise has not only driven significant cost savings; it’s made the organisation more efficient, boosted productivity, eased collaboration, and facilitated knowledge sharing.

Meanwhile, BPP’s IT leader reported that his team is now “planning from the future, rather than moving from problem to problem”, since it was able to take a step back and really assess its organisation’s IT needs.

By taking advantage of modern cloud and connectivity technologies, the team has driven not only a cut in costs and a boost in productivity, but employee satisfaction has also been buoyed.

>See also: The CIO survival kit

Things can only get better

Hopefully Deloitte’s, Forrester’s or Gartner’s next CIO surveys will show a marked increase in the amount of time CIOs are spending on strategy, as well as on the value CEOs claim to place on their IT colleagues’ input in to the business planning process.

But in the meantime, we can only wish the IT teams focused on delivering the World Cup to our screens all the very best of luck as they prove that FIFA should never have doubted them in the first place.


Sourced from Martin Flick, CEO at Olive Communications

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Ben Rossi

Ben was Vitesse Media's editorial director, leading content creation and editorial strategy across all Vitesse products, including its market-leading B2B and consumer magazines, websites, research and...

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