by Rebecca Merrett

CIO year in review

Dec 23, 2015
Technology Industry

Digital took centre stage this year for many CIOs, who helped lead their organisations through some form of transformation.

In the 2015 State of the CIO survey, more than 25 per cent of 187 CIOs led a product innovation effort this year, compared to just 6 per cent in 2014.

Cloud services were cited by almost 50 per cent respondents as being a key initiative driving technology investment this year. This was followed by mobile technologies (39 per cent), big data and business intelligence (36 per cent), application modernisation (36 per cent), and customer experience technologies (32 per cent).

CIO Australia has put together some highlights of 2015:

Tech transformations and investments

The banks actively got involved in digital transformation this year. Commonwealth Bank’s CIO, David Whiteing, took up digital currency technology, Ripple, to transfer payments between subsidiaries efficiently.

“Bitcoin is a protocol which is now being replicated by non-asset based vendors like Ripple and others. We absolutely see that’s where it’s going to go. The bank has a role to play in that,” he said.

Westpac invested $1.3 billion in digital transformation to improve the customer experience, consolidate infrastructure and move more into a hybrid cloud environment. CIO David Curran said he wants to enable greater opportunities for cross-channel conversations with customers, and to put the customer at the centre of technology development.

ANZ brought IBM on board for the development of a new innovation hub, which will use IBM’s Bluemix platform-as-a-service (PaaS) offering to build, test and deploy new applications and services faster and cheaper. The agreement will also deliver software to support customers making transactions across multiple channels.

NAB launched a digital advice platform, NAB Prosper, for customers who don’t have an active relationship with a financial adviser. The computer-generated financial assistance platform will be rolled out to 40,000 internet banking customers as of early October, with plans to eventually offer it to the bank’s entire customer base.

The CIO of ME (a mobile and online bank), Mark Gray, talked about the completion of a $90 million, five-year IT transformation in becoming a fully digital bank. The bank rolled out a Temenos T24 core banking platform, providing a single customer record.

In government, the NSW Department of Industry underwent a digital transformation of consolidating 148 websites, more than 30 intranets and numerous social media accounts. It is now mapping customer journeys and applying continuous improvement, while actively seeking feedback from users.

Phyllis Post, CIO of MSD, talked about the global pharmaceutical organisation’s ongoing transformation since 2013. “Data has become critical inside and outside our organisation, and understanding that data to better address our core focus as a business.”

When it comes to supporting transformation and digital services, Edith Cowan University’s CIO, Elizabeth Wilson, looked at next-generation infrastructure to provide rich multimedia learning experiences to students, faculty and staff across its campuses.

AI disruption

In May, the Woz came to Australia to speak at the World Business Forum about what he thinks will be the next wave of highly disruptive technology.

Artificial intelligence is important to the future of computing, he said, as we’ve spent years just pre-programming computers and giving instructions to computers to carry out certain functions or tasks.

“Computers have never really theoretically in the past … programmed themselves. And how do we program ourselves? What is the term for that? It is learning,” he said.

“When you learn, you program yourself, even when you were a baby just learning how to hold a spoon or something. You are programming yourself and computers will get to that stage.”

Machine learning, which executes AI in that algorithms enable computers to pick up on patterns and predict future outcomes, is making its way into a broad range of industries. This includes marketing with behavioural targeting, to healthcare with accurate and early detection of complex diseases, to infrastructure with smarter urban planning.

Google, Baidu, Facebook, IBM, Apple and Microsoft are all big investors of AI.

Facebook, for example, revealed in April 2015 at its F8 developer conference that its memory network can read a short term version of Lord of the Rings in 15 sentences and have it answer questions on ‘where is Frodo?’ and ‘where is the ring now?

It also built a deep learning system, trained in an unsupervised manner, which can automatically create its own images of objects and animals from photographs.

Facebook also announced its AI assistant M, which will sit alongside Apple’s Siri, Google Now and Microsoft’s Cortana.

CIOs doing it for themselves

Some CIOs decided to go out on their own and start their own business. Rafaela Salzer left her corporate role as head of IT at Beam Suntor to start Beach Life Australia.

“One of the things that annoyed me the most in the corporate world was the bureaucracy and the slowness of decision making,” she said, on the contrast between how corporates and startups operate. “Most organisations have a very stringent process when it comes to new projects.”

Another former CIO who started his own business is Jacob Dudzinski. He joined forces with ex-CMO Mats Johnson to build their startup, Wifi Control.

It all started when both Dudzinski and Johnson crossed paths at the same workplace, assisting with another startup business in data migration.

After going through a rough start in developing his idea, technology wise, Johnson asked Dudzinski for his thoughts and that’s when the CMO and CIO became a dynamic duo on their own.

“My skills complement Mats and Mats’ skills complement mine. There is an overlap in the way that we think through issues and business questions. There’s overlap in some of our general business management skills and commercial skills, but we bring different prior knowledge of business areas together,” said Dudzinski.

Dodgy IT

The NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) found Brett Roberts, a former IT manager at three universities, had engaged in corrupt conduct by authorising and certifying the payment of false invoices. He received more than $86,000 in corrupt payments.

ICAC also pursued allegations on acting IT manager at TAFE ICT Services, Ronald Cordoba, having dishonestly exercised his public official duties for financial gain. He allegedly authorised false purchase orders, supplied false invoices to the Department of Education and Communities TAFE South West Sydney Institute (SWSI), and dishonestly authorised payments of those invoices to his own business, Storm Solutions.

The University of Sydney has also been the subject of corruption, with an ICAC inquiry revealing damning details over allegations that the former head of projects for ICT, Jason Meeth, dishonestly gained money from recruiting ICT contractors from non-accredited Canberra Solutions. A former contractor, who was recruited through Canberra Solutions and spoke as a witness, said the company asked him to lie.

National changes

In September, former Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull became Prime Minster, defeating Tony Abbott for the Liberal leadership in a 54-44 vote.

The Data Retention Act was passed as law under the Abbott Government in March, with $153.8m of the Federal Budget to support this over four years, and $131.3m of that supporting storage costs for telco companies. The law requires telcos and ISPs to store customers’ metadata for two years.

Since becoming PM, Turnbull announced a $1.1 billion innovation plan, of which $106 million will go to tax incentives for investors in early stage startup companies, $75 million to the CSIRO/Data61, $250 million to a Biomedical Translation Fund over four years, and $30 million to establish an industry-led Cyber Security Growth Centre.

Senator Mitch Fifield took Turnbull’s place as Communications Minister, with Christopher Pyne becoming Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science.