by Rebecca Merrett

Q&A: Community Alliance exec manager operations, Evan Thomas

Mar 20, 20124 mins
CareersIT LeadershipIT Management

Former CIO at Australian Health Management and former general manager of IT integration at Medibank, Evan Thomas, recently joined Community Alliance Credit Union as executive manager operations where he is responsible for the strategic business and operations.

Evan Thomas spoke to CIO Australia about a ‘fit for purpose’ strategy and the projects he is working on.

What does an average day involve for you at Community Alliance Credit Union?

I start every day by clarifying my goals that I generally set at the beginning of the week. I have a broad plan based on an IT Balance Scorecard that provides me with clarity and direction. Currently, I have split my time between business and IT, 50-50. The major part of my day involves working with people. You need to understand what their current challenges, issues and opportunities are.

Being new to the organisation, it’s about sitting down and observing what is on the landscape or canvas. Listen and gain an understanding of the business through your interactions with people. The staff will generally share their insights without hesitation. Ultimately you need to digest all of the information and form a set of strategies and opinions to discuss with your colleagues. As you progress and deliver some results your credibility and rapport with the staff and your peers will increase.

Essentially, you must understand the existing culture of the organisation and then using your experience to contribute positively to the organisation and its purpose.

What are some challenges you face in your role?

Well, Community Alliance is a mutual organisation. So, the organisation is here to service the members and that brings a set of challenges because we are a not-for-profit organisation which is very different to a commercial organisation. Specifically from my experience, having worked within a mutual organisation before, it’s about finding and executing a balanced ‘fit for purpose’ strategy and a set of solutions to service the members. You can’t afford to be bleeding edge and you don’t necessarily want to be bleeding edge. So, it’s about striking that balance, making sure you’ve got a ‘fit for purpose’ approach.

What are the current projects you are working on, or will be working on?

At top of mind we are going to migrate our transaction banking service to Cuscal, so this is going to require some robust governance and planning as we migrate to those services.

I’m also keen to progress our mobile banking strategy. I think that’s fundamental to attracting and retaining a younger population of new members to the Credit Union as our current membership is an ageing membership.

And, the third thing is not necessarily about IT; it’s about leading organisational change and increasing the staff engagement within the organisation. My observation here is the staff at Community Alliance are very passionate about servicing the members and my role is to sponsor and support their concepts, their ideas and the things that they want to do to better service the members.

What are the three biggest issues facing CIOs today?

Foremost, I think CIOs need to be clear about what is it that they bring to the table. Are they focussed on technology? Or, have they developed a broader set of skills that allow them to contribute to all aspects of the business? That would be number one.

Secondly, CIOs in my view need to build and maintain both relationships and their credibility by keeping the lights on, delivering results. And then, importantly, engaging with the business and managing its expectations through some rigorous governance processes.

The final thing would be cutting through the hype of technology and providing some sound ‘fit for purpose’ guidance and direction to the business. Often that may mean providing the business with options and elaborating on the pros and cons of each of those options and the implications that come with them.

What is your favourite gadget?

I’ve recently just converted to the iPhone and the iPad which has been my second attempt. The Community Alliance Board are provided their papers on the iPad. So, I have adopted this technology to ensure I am familiar with it, and I have to say I’m converted. I’d say my favourite app is probably Hurley Surf. It allows me to take some time out and to see if there are any waves on the local Beach.

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