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Ensuring IT is viewed as a strategic business function

Kenny MacIver — May 2014

Only by energetically communicating its value across the organization will IT be recognized as strategic, argues UBS’s Oliver Bussmann.

Historically, the IT department may not have had the best of reputations across the wider business. Often criticized for a weak appreciation of business priorities and an inability to communicate in business terms, the IT function has struggled to be recognized as strategic. But as digital technologies have become critical for the success of most business operations, IT has been presented with the opportunity to take a seat at the management table — and, in the process, to finally elevate its brand.

Cultivating the relationship between business and IT is “absolutely critical for the success of the IT organization,” argues Oliver Bussmann, group CIO of international bank UBS, in I-CIO’s exclusive video. And that means establishing transparency, high levels of collaboration and excitement between the two previously discrete elements.

“In my experience, if you drive communication, if you drive engagement with the business, if you embrace innovation and help to change the end-user experience, I think you can change the brand of the IT organization,” he says.


At UBS, the bank’s communication platforms exploit corporate social media and other collaboration tools to provide universal content and information sharing. But they also help to move the IT organization away from a “black box approach,” Bussmann outlines. An IT organization that succeeds 24x7 but does not share its achievements or interact with the business has little perceived value, he observes.

“We’ve seen a substantial shift in ‘running-the-bank’ expenses to investment in ‘change-the-bank’ innovation.”

Thankfully, that demonstration of value is becoming easier, he argues, as more and more organizations appreciate the strategic role of IT. The level of digitization means “IT has become the production environment for a lot of companies. Meeting expectations for a stable, high-availability environment, the digitization of more business processes, and new ways of interacting with the customer requires strategic investment in IT.”

And that is evident in changing emphases at UBS. “If I look at the change over the last few years, I see a substantial shift in run-the-bank expenses to investment in innovation, with an ever-larger portion of investment directed towards change-the-bank,” he says. And that manifests itself in the embracing of new, disruptive technologies — in areas such as mobile, big data, cloud, security and online channels — that are “critical for future success,” he highlights.

First published
May 2014
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About: Oliver Bussmann
Oliver Bussmann is a transformation CIO and pioneer of business-building social media strategies. Head of IT worldwide at UBS since 2013, he earlier created a revenue-generating IT organization at SAP, earning him awards as European CIO of the Year and Most Social CIO.

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