Each year I gather InTEP members together to discuss, in a convivial environment, the common challenges and problems CIOs face across business. I find these lunches uncover issues I had not expected. This year's Christmas in August lunch in Melbourne was no exception.
To kick things off I ran down a list of possible topics that I thought might be worth exploring. Top of my list was ensuring GST compliance. I am conscious that other research organisations are predicting it is likely to cost $2.6 billion to make Australian business systems GST compliant. Since the deadline for the introduction of the GST is less than 12 months away, and given the fact that not all the parameters are finalised, I anticipated most CIOs would be in a panic.
Instead I got a very calm and considered response from everyone present. CIOs acknowledged that with Y2K IS could be somewhat justifiably be viewed as guilty for the sins of its fathers. Business could point the finger at the CIO and say: "Get your house in order". However, anyone thinking IT is similarly going to accept ownership of the GST compliance issue is in for a shock.
Without exception the CIOs at the lunch argued that this was not an IT issue, it was a business challenge. Given that both major political parties had in the past argued they would never implement a GST the CIOs stressed that it was unreasonable to have expected IS systems to be compliant for this tax.
Moreover, they argued that even as late as this May the perception was that without Senator Harradine's support the GST was doomed. The InTEP members acknowledged that work needs to be done to address the GST but they saw this is a collective business project rather than just the responsibility of the IS department.
However, there was a much more divided response on the subject of e-mail. One of the CIOs raised the issue of whether the IT department should police the e-mail system. His own organisation had begun to examine the explosive growth in e-mail usage it was experiencing. In looking at all this e-mail it found some startling results. Only 10 per cent of e-mail traffic generated by employees was directly business related. Fifty-three per cent of e-mails were a mixture of social correspondence such as jokes, junk mail or letters to family and friends. Amazingly, the remaining 37 per cent of e-mail traffic was pornography, and these image files were clogging the organisation's communication arteries.
The InTEP member questioned whether stopping this activity was a CIO responsibility. After all, IS has spent years trying to foster business ownership of the IT systems. If end users now utilise these systems inappropriately is it the CIO's job to stop them? If so, then it changes the dynamics of the relationship between IS and the business from one of servant to one of policeman.
In the end, there was no consensus on whether it was better to "serve" or "police". The group found no resolution to this dilemma. However, research from AFP Technology shows that 38 per cent of all business correspondence in Europe is now done via e-mail. In such circumstances the security and reputation of business is at risk. As a result, it seems likely that more and more CIOs will need to determine how they will integrate a policing role into their daily work responsibilities. vPeter Hind is the manager of User Programs, which includes InTEP, at IDC Australia
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