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‘The golden age of the charity IT department is over’

13 Nov 2017 News

The “golden age” of the charity IT department is over and technology professionals should adapt and work more collaboratively with other departments if they are to remain relevant, the Charity Technology Conference heard last week. 

Ian Williamson, former ICT director at Unicef UK and trustee of the membership body Charity IT Leaders, was speaking at Civil Society Media’s annual Charity Technology Conference last Thursday.

He said that when IT teams were first set up it was a “golden age” and something like introducing emails could be thought of as “magic”. 

But now he said that IT is in a “bad place” with many people viewing it as the “land of slow and no”. IT is also finding itself “competing for attention, money and interest” with digital departments. 

He said the pace of change is increasing and that the “model is changing”. 

He said that with more people having grown up with digital technology “everyone is becoming a geek” which changes how they expect to use IT in their professional lives. 

‘Tech will be much more embedded’ 

Williamson said that in ten years’ time he expects technology to be even more prevalent across every aspect of the charity. 

“If you think there is a lot of technology now, just wait ten years. It’s going to be completely embedded,” he said. “Every department in a charity will be to some degree a technology department”.

He added that he expects digital as a distinct aspect “will be over” and that artificial intelligence will have “completely arrived and be part of the workforce in some shape or form”. 

This will lead, he said, to some people questioning the existence of the IT department, but he said that its demise was not “inevitable”.

‘More grown up relationship’

“The distinction between being a techie and not a techie will blur,” he said. As such the relationship between IT teams other departments needs evolve.

He added that “for most of history” the relationship between IT and other departments “has been parent/child” but that this needed to change, even if it could be “frustrating at times”. 

He suggested that IT should become more like the finance or human resources department and exist to “keep an eye on the whole picture” but give departments more responsibility over what they use. 

This would involve keeping a record of all IT being used across the organisation, providing support to other departments and developing relationships with other suppliers.


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