IT managers must tackle those difficult projects they have been putting off if they want a competitive edge said SAP User Group chairman Glynn Lowth.

He also argued it was no longer enough to be technically competent but that IT staff should add real business skills to complement their technical ones.

Speaking at the SAP User Conference, Lowth said that users needed to look beyond the basic functionalities of their software to add greater value to their business. This is important since some of the more trivial IT tasks – such as transaction processing -- had been relocated overseas for cost reasons.

In particular, Lowth said that IT staff should be looking to implement service oriented architecture (SOA) or develop collaborative and integration projects that they’d been putting off for years. "Managers might look to integrate parts of the business that don’t naturally fit together (for example, plant maintenance and purchasing) if it gives them a business edge," he said.

He wasn’t underestimating the difficulty however: "There’s no doubt that it will stretch individual people and that they’re going to find it hard to day. Managers are going to have to employ people with a higher level of skills."

Lowth said that it was very easy for IT staff to get tied into technology and not look at the bigger picture. "They should be looking at the outside world, at things like Enron and Farepak so that they can consider wider business issues."