Life after being a CIO

So you are a busy, hard working, CIO. You spend your days driving your business forward through the effective application of IT, managing a demanding IT team and board of directors as well as dealing with the many uncertainties of today. When faced with all this every day, it might be hard to step back and think about where you might be in ten or fifteen years time. This will be a time when being the top IT employee in a large blue chip organisation is no longer your life's only goal.

One way to allow yourself this luxury might be to look at those who have gone before you, and to see how they have successfully transitioned into a post-CIO role. What is needed to help you do this is a really good example...

Step forward Simon Orebi Gann. His career history in IT is certainly top drawer: Until two years ago he was CIO of BP Integrated Supply and Trading, a role he enjoyed for seven years. Prior to that he had spent three years as managing director of the London International Financial Futures and Options Exchange (LIFFE), where he was responsible for the development of the company's automated trading platform – from the first concept to its implementation. And even before all that, Orebi Gann had worked in IT at Marks and Spencer for seventeen years, getting involved in every area of M&S' business: Food, clothing and operations.

Orebi Gann finally left this long list of full time roles behind him two years ago. As one of the UK's most experienced CIOs, Orebi Gann still uses, and is developing, his knowledge in many ways; building a portfolio of advisory and non-executive board positions, which allow him to pass on his knowledge and experience to a range of up and coming organisations.

Today he provides strategic advice to company boards where they believe there could be value in using IT differently in their businesses. Orebi Gann has been engaged by three large companies: on in telecommunications, one in insurance and one in the oil and gas industry. The reason they have used him rather than a large consultancy is because they are seeking a truly independent view; they know that he does not have to find work for a team of consultants, and has also sat on the client side of the executive table. Unlike an ongoing non executive role, these assignments are typically more concentrated (perhaps half time) for less than a year.

He took on his first non executive role over 10 years ago. With the responsibility of a full time line job, a maximum of one such role on top is feasible, but he now enjoys two non-executive roles. The first is as non-executive director at Next Generation Data (NGD), a datacentre provider; the other at Aspen Technology, a US Nasdaq quoted public company. In these roles, his past corporate experience brings real value to newer, smaller, organisations.

Next Generation Data company profile

The non-executive role at NGD is a perfect example: "I was invited to join the board just two years ago," recalls Orebi Gann: "They were looking for deep understanding of technology and where it might go." His thirty years of big company experience was of immense value to a new company -- he spends a couple of days a month providing these skills to NGD.

In return, NGD gets two main benefits from an ex-CIO of Orebi Gann's stature. First there is his training and background as a technologist. He can offer a clear view on the relevant technology directions needed for NGD's own internal development purposes and for the optimum customer offer. And of course he has built datacentres on his employer's behalf (at M&S and BP), giving him extra insight into CIO objectives and concerns.

Secondly, he is someone who understands the customer needs of NGD's large corporate clients, because he was one himself. He has worked for many years inside big companies and served on their operating boards, so he knows what happens in the boardroom and how IT purchasing decisions are really made.

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