Web usage is creating a cultural change for CIOs and businesses beyond imagination, British Airways (BA) CIO Paul Coby told delegates to the Forrester IT Forum EMEA today. As the keynote speaker for the Lisbon based event, Coby outlined the changes that CIOs can already see and expect and why it is both a good time and a challenging time to be a CIO.

“There is something very profound going on at present. I don’t understand all of it, but I want to be part of it,” Coby said. He described the adoption of internet services such as Amazon, eBookers and Web 2.0 technology as a “cultural revolution” that would have baffled the former Chinese leader Chairman Mao. As well as praising new internet businesses for opening up new markets he had particular praise for the DirectGov service created by the British government for simplifying necessary services like vehicle excise and paying tax.

“IT is a major channel for British Airways to provide services and to sell to customers. IT is the main way we interact with customers in every way,” he said.

Coby admitted that the Ryanair and easyJet sites were good, quipping that he loved them, “not”. But added that BA has launched Project Leapfrog, “In recognition that people have caught up with us online”.

Coby described technology as “being everywhere” therefore making the CIO’s role complex and the importance of a close relationship between the CIO, their team and every department in the organisation. “Technology is at the heart of everything we do at BA, and everything we will do in the future. IT underlies everything a modern enterprise does,” he said. An example of this is SAP, which according to Coby, "is the highest cause of fatalities amongst CIOs. You have all had fun and games integrating it,” he joked, but reminded attendees of its value. “SAP has made increased savings.”

The greatest issue surrounding technology in the modern enterprise, according to Coby, is that technology at present changes the processes of the people who work in the organisation, especially enterprise resource planning systems like SAP. This causes flash points of conflict. “SAP defines the business process,” he said, explaining how the head of engineering at BA used to define the process for his department. Coby said organisations must be allowed to define their own processes, and not be dictated to by technology.

“Proposition, process, people and IT, 3PI,” were Coby’s keywords for success as a CIO, he told CIOs how he got his staff to engage with BA customers, “as they pay our wages, as they have a choice,” he said this understanding was vitally important for any organisation.

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