by Mark Chillingworth

CIOs at the 2011 Summit challenge peers to lead

Nov 03, 20113 mins

I opened the 2011 CIO Summit with the prediction that overall theme of the event would be business technology leadership, although the CIOs presenting had an emphasis on either business, technology or leadership – the three strands of the day-long event at the St Pancras Hotel. Post event, I can reflect that for once, one of my predictions was on the money.
Within the over-riding theme of business technology leadership a number of CIO raised the same concerns in their presentations – people management and in particular communications and skills; business opportunities and board level operation; delivering technology that works and the role of cloud computing. 
There is widespread confusion amongst the PR industry that CIOs are technologists whose days are spent wanting to know what the latest server rack is or the power of a gadget. But as the second CIO Summit demonstrated, CIOs are leaders and therefore put people skills and the challenges of leadership. 
Mark Thompson, CIO at TUI Travel Specialist divisionbegan the day’s debate on the communications and skill sets of IT workers by saying: “The curse of IT is that we have attracted people with the right skill sets but not the right attitude.” Thompson is not to be confused with the Director General of the BBC, who according to Tweets as the TUI CIO took the stage, was also making a presentation in London. 
Owen Powellan interim CIO at the Inner North West London PCT continued the debate, adding a psychological aspect to the conversation. Powell’s presentation on why IT will never achieve business alignment certainly got people interested and as fellow speaker Andrew Jordan, a CIO with Thomson Reuters said, Powell delivered “a few home truths”. 
Jane Scott and Andy Haywood, CIOs of oil firm Baker Hughes and retailer Boots respectively described the board level and business opportunities that CIOs have open to them. Scott’s presentation, sadly the only female CIO we could get to speak, gained a great deal of interest. The former 3663 CIO provided the audience with examples and guidance on how a CIO can create revenue generation opportunities for the organisation. This isn’t just the holy grail for CIOs, Scott has actually done it and provided concrete examples. 
Haywood, interviewed on stage by John Lewis CIO Paul Coby shared his views on the pace of being a retail CIO and transforming an organisation. His insight into board level relationships was “you get the board you deserve.” As Haywood has made clear in previous CIO magazine interviews, he is passionate about delivery and doesn’t shy from admitting that the IT world has not got a good reputation with the board for delivery. A similar theme arose in the technology strand with a number of CIOs, including Mark Hall from HMRC, TUI’s Thompson, Richard Wilson at Cable & Wireless Worldwide, Jack Cuttsof the Nottingham Building Society, all saying that making sure that technology works is priority number one. 
No event or C-level gathering can pass at present without a discussion on cloud computing, interestingly the CIOs present variously referred to it as an addition to the services they can offer back to the organisation. 
Mark Hall, HMRC Deputy CIO called cloud, “part of the toolkit,” and Haywood described it as just another option. No one wanted to talk about paradigm shifts or disruptions. 
A the Editor in Chief, I want to thank all of the presenters for some amazing discussions. The feedback I have received from attendees was really powerful. Thank you.