2020 State of the CIO

CIOs are spending less time on traditional ICT responsibilities and moving into more expansive roles. So, what new areas are increasingly taking the focus - and resources - of New Zealand CIOs?

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“The maturity is coming through to recognise that actually, the digital world is the world and what we got to do is help organisations manage, protect, and leverage the data, their insights, and their technology assets to deliver better value and better customer experience and better shareholder value.”

“You are bringing a set of tools and a set of data to the table to look at the problem, not just a piece of it.”

“It is quite a shift from the traditional days of IT.”

richard raj Divina Paredes

Richard Raj

Richard Raj, head of digital and mobility at healthAlliance, observes there is no necessity to push the business transformation agenda uphill anymore. “Everybody realises they have to do it.”

An area that calls for introspection, however, is how advanced enterprises are in their business and digital transformation programmes, as this will impact a lot of areas like innovation and new digitally-enabled products and services.

For instance, the State of the CIO survey finds 27 per cent of respondents in Australia and New Zealand are driving business innovation inside their organisations. In Asia Pacific, this is 32 per cent, and globally, 34 per cent.

“I believe the end result of this transformation is to bring new ways of working, or true Agile and DevOps, through to new ways of funding, and new ways of supporting and using fast underlying technologies like cloud or ‘everything as-a-service’,” says Raj.

“I strongly believe that if they do not have those enabling capabilities, they have not done the transformation properly to enable innovation 'commercialisation'.

However, if a company has fully transformed into digital ways of working, such as having Agile DevOps or bi-modal operations, these will enable them to take an innovative idea, propagate it and pilot it and scale it for production use or for sale.

“Alternatively, if you are a technology vendor, you can send it out to your customers because your Agile DevOps team will be able to develop it in an iterative way and be able to support and maintain it.”

ai a peek behind the curtain of innovation Dell EMC
Taking innovation from pilot to commercial and industrial use is where companies struggle because this requires fast and nimble approaches, that are also the result of digital transformation

According to Raj, part of the innovation programme is to showcase ideas and proof of concepts. But taking it from pilots to commercial and industrial use is where companies struggle because these require fast and nimble approaches, that are also the result of digital transformation.

“The realisation is it is very challenging to do full scale digital transformation at once, because the old ways of working are so ingrained both in the ways people act, mind-set and in the company processes.”

“Technology is less of an issue,” he stresses. “All technologies are now mature to operate in a digital environment, but it is the people and process that is the hard part.”

There are two ways to approach this, says Raj. 

“One is to take a long strong approach and transform the company altogether. That requires top support and money,” he adds. 

“Or, organisations can take a bi-modal approach. The organisation will select three areas that will go into the newer ways of working and will be catalysts in moving the rest of the organisation.

“That way people can see what good looks like at a lower cost and faster pace,” says Raj.

“The problem is companies are trying to do what they have done for many years before, which is doing continuous improvement of existing processes.” 

He says, however, that a digital process is not a small improvement of existing or old ways of working. “It is a complete change in the way of thinking.” 

He notes that this is demonstrated by Air New Zealand through its mobile app, for example. They did not say you have to go back to your travel agent to make changes to your booking; you can use the app to do those things, he states.

“You have to rethink the whole thing because digital innovation enables you to do your business process completely differently.”

“In any company, you may have leadership convinced you need to change but you also need to change the mind-set of the people,” says Raj.

“Sometimes you bring consulting companies to help with this, but this is not a sustainable model,” he explains.

“This why process mind-set is the first thing to tackle, because you can recruit internal people to help you improve.”

“You must start with mind-set change and combine it with practice,” he says. 

“Then, people will start to free themselves from the shackles of the way they used to do things and start to open up their minds because they have a good idea of products of the business and the new ways of working. That is the start of true transformation, if you have people, process and technology coming together."

Thus, Raj believes that it is imperative for companies to build internal competencies in the digital space.

“The advantage of internal people is if you train and upskill them, they know your business already.”

Sounding boards, strategic advisers

jennifer cherrington Supplied

Jen Cherrington

Jen Cherrington outlines another role for CIOs outside their organisation - as independent advisor to boards.

“I can ask the technical questions in a meeting that the rest of the board cannot,” says Cherrington, an independent business consultant, who also acts as a digital advisor to corporate boards and start-ups.

In this case, she can also be a ‘sounding board’ for the organisation’s own CIO or CTO, says Cherrington, whose previous roles include executive GM technology and digital (CTO) at Genesis Energy and vice president - digital technology and innovation, at Electrocomponents Plc in the UK.

“For advisory boards, I think no matter what you do these days you need to have tech leadership,” and this could be provided internally, by their respective CIO, or an external person, says Victor Vae’au, former Defence Force CIO and now director of Sterling Group.

“If they have a board and one of the things they miss is digital leadership, they will not have the technologies coordinated and delivered properly in a well-planned fashion, they will have myriad integration risks.”

victor vaeau Supplied

Victor Vae'au

“Heads of organisations are trying very hard to leverage digital capabilities so they can do their business at a faster way, and disrupt the marketplace,” he states. “But if you haven't got the CIO engaged at your level in the strategy, that is challenging.”

“A lot of people use technology but it is a very different skill set between knowing a technology terminology versus the effect of the technology, and I think that is the critical skill a CIO has developed over time.”

The CIO, in this case, can approach the discussion from a risk perspective, says Vae’au. 

One of the things you learn on the role is looking at multiple business challenges and seeing the commercial and security risks, says Vae’au.

“You can have a more informed conversation.”

A group of business leaders / board members surrounded by question marks. FangXiaNuo / Melpomenem / Getty Images

Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.

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