by Byron Connolly

CIOs need to be “integrated with the business”: Defence CIO

Feb 05, 2013 3 mins
Careers Government IT IT Leadership

In this second part of his interview with CIO Australia, newly-appointed Defence CIO Dr Peter Lawrence discusses why chief information officers must work closely with other C-level execs, and the effect of social media on IT organisations.

As Defence’s CIO, Dr Lawrence is leading a team responsible for delivering several initiatives under Defence’s Strategic Reform program aimed at saving the department $20 billion over 10 years. The success of these initiatives under the reform program will depend on how well C-level executives at Defence work together.

“A lot of the programs we are running now are about us [Defence’s IT organisation] being able to deliver to Defence a much better platform to run its business; a more scalable, more reliable platform that will support the ADF in its role.

“You can’t do that unless you are closely integrated with the business,” he says. “If you are not working with the CEO, the CFO, marketing and procurement teams, then you are going to be lost.”

Dr Lawrence says he works closely with heads of [personnel] services, the CFO, and other C-level managers to understand how to deliver the best outcome for Defence.

“A CIO that isn’t part of a [particular] business probably won’t be the CIO for very long,” he says. “I work closely with the CFO [to] understand what Defence needs and what we are able to spend and [ask], ‘Are we efficiently spending the money that we have on ICT?'”

The social media effect

Dr Lawrence agrees the rise of social media is changing the nature of how CIOs deal with often unstructured information coming from multiple sources.

He was previously CIO at Origin Energy, a company that “used Facebook and Twitter as a business-enabler to engage with customers, take feedback and respond etc,” he says. “That was a very deliberate strategy and part of our marketing and corporate communications.”

Defence is not using social media as a business tool, he says. “We do have some internal blogs but you wouldn’t see that in the public domain.”

General David Hurley, chief of the Defence Force, uses social media as a communication tool to talk to people in the armed services, he says. Serving personnel also use social media tools to connect with their families when they are on duty.

“It depends on what industry you are in but I think for a lot of industries, particularly if you are in a customer-facing industry, it’s pretty critical to understand how you use that [social media] to engage with your customers.

“It’s a two-way feedback mechanism – how you engage, how you take feedback, respond to it, how you react and communicate major outages and other things,” he says.