CIO roundtable: ‘Navigating the new workplace’

CIO roundtable: ‘Navigating the new workplace’

New technologies bring greater communications and collaboration among teams, along with a raft of new issues for CIOs and their executive colleagues. At a recent CIO roundtable held in association with Dimension Data, panellists shared insights on how to lead this changing environment. Here are highlights of the discussion.


Craig Columbus, CIO, Russell McVeagh

Alin Ungureanu, CIO and GM Projects, Oceania Group

Andrew Binnie, global IT manager, Cunningham Lindsey

Arian de Wit, general manager, information systems and technology, National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research

Andries van der Westhuizen, group IT transformation manager, Stevenson Group

Campbell Such, GM IT, Bidvest

Chris Robb, head of technology for retail and business banking, ANZ

David Osborne, technical operations manager, Air New Zealand

Dhaya Sivakumar, CIO, Paymark

Geoff Tribble, CTO, Auckland Transport

Leeann McCallum, Group IT infrastructure and operations manager, Beca

Ryan Sharp, corporate solutions manager/Internal Branding and Corporate Solutions, Air New Zealand

Vaughan Robertson, group manager - technology services, Beca

Phil Goodwin, general manager, marketing, Dimension Data

Moderator: Divina Paredes, editor, CIO New Zealand

More photos from the CIO roundtable on ‘Navigating the new workplace’

Evolution in the workplace

Vaughan Robertson: There's a great fragmentation of communication channels. Now you've got everything from phone to Lync to video conference to voice conference to cell phone to smartphone to desktop communications; email, to internal social, and to external social. It’s a dilemma for everybody in the organisation, not just IT, to work out how to use these channels effectively, because the multitude of ways to get the same message across is difficult to manage. We’re a facilitator of this, and I’ve found that my relationship with our internal communications staff has grown substantially over the years as they've recognised the critical importance of IT systems to facilitate their role.

Alin Ungureanu: We are in the aged care environment, so we look after the elderly in New Zealand; we have independent villages, rest homes, and hospitals. Over the last two-and-a-half or so years, we’ve transformed the way we operate and how we interact and communicate. We now use video conferencing for our clinical quality teams and operations teams. They can do videoconferencing from iPads whenever they are traveling. When they are in the facility, they do the high-grade quality video conferencing.

The first applications for the iPad will be to replace paper-based forms (audit forms) with electronic audit forms that generate tasks list and email notifications. This will allow better visibility into any non-compliant issue and allow us to monitor remedial actions.

We deployed iPhones to all of our managers at all of the facilities and to maintenance staff. And now we are in the process of developing applications for these iPhones that will allow us to centralise information to ensure that we deliver the quality of standard and care we promised our residents. But the most important aspect of the last two years has been the automation of core workflow processes.

The most important aspect of the last two years has been the automation of core workflow processes.

Alin Ungureanu, Oceania Group

Arian de Wit:The biggest thing for us over the last couple of years is having scientific staff across 15 sites bring together the best skills for every project. Last year, we put in Microsoft Lync and people now do desktop video and screen sharing; co-authoring stuff in real time, rather than getting together for a meeting in front of a white board and trying to get a document on a projector. Distributed teams work much better with these collaboration tools than ever before, and it just speeds up the project lifecycle.

Ryan Sharp:We’re investing into mobility and associated tool sets, and we’ll keep investing as long as we continue to see opportunities to get productivity gains in the workforce. Security is a big aspect to take into account for the new solutions, and in terms of access to corporate content and applications, staff will find a way unless you provide one. We are defining process and governing policies to minimise the raft of possible support scenarios.

Andrew Binnie: In the last two or three years, we have seen this exponential maturity in technology which enables us, from a network point of view and a hardware point of view, to actually do things which we could only dream of before. We’re in the insurance industry and were out and about when cyclones hit, visiting folks who had a wet carpet and floods half a meter up the wall. It was a paper-based industry 10 to 20 years ago. In the last three or four years, the technology has finally matured enough for us to look at using tablets and those sorts of tools.

In the last two or three years, we have seen this exponential maturity in technology which enables us, from a network point of view and a hardware point of view, to actually do things which we could only dream of before. |Andrew Binnie, Cunningham Lindsey

I’ve been in Christchurch looking at what we’ve been doing as our response to last week’s storm. We find that all of a sudden, the tools are actually able to give us what we want. And for the first time in my life, instead of saying, ‘OK business, tell us your process and we'll find the IT systems and we'll develop them to meet the process’, IT is challenging the process – because IT can make you think now in a totally different way.

The old corner offices are not there anymore...people are talking and working in collaborative teams.

Dhaya Sivakumar, Paymark

Dhaya Sivakumar: I look at it in at a slightly different angle: It makes working around the globe so much easier now. It enabled us to do stuff in New Zealand, which we probably couldn't have done without flying people all over the place 10 to 15 years ago.

At Paymark, our new office is very much open plan, flexi-working. No one has a desk phone, everyone uses Lync. It still doesn’t get rid of the problems that you’re talking about in terms of which tools to use and how to use them, but the old corner offices are not there anymore, because people are just sitting anywhere and people are talking and working in collaborative teams. And that team might be technology, product, sales – all together. It has given us a lot of freedom, and I don't think we would want to operate in the old world anymore.

The new collaboration tools

Phil Goodwin: We moved into a new office in Auckland last year and merged three offices. We stood back and said, ‘What are the key things that we need to be able to support a new way of working?’ And one of them was to make it highly collaborative. So we put all the tool sets in place and made it really fit for mobile workers.

One of the things we discovered is that the new collaboration channels don't substitute the old ones; they complement the existing channels, rather than replace them. Users will adopt the new modes of collaboration at different rates, and it is important to segment users into profiles that reflect their working style. These profiles help clarify their collaboration needs. The key IT challenge is to ensure that all models are integrated.

Andries van der Westhuizen:We implemented Lync in thebeginning of last year and I was fairly adamant we will not replace desk phones with desk phones; we will give them headsets. There was a lot of resistance in the beginning, but now the majority of people love their headsets because it makes them ‘hands free’ while doing the calls, and the clarity of the call is a lot better.

We have got a few desk phones where it is practical; at our quarry for the use of the dispatcher, for example. The dispatcher has got a desk phone as a backup in case there is a problem. We have desk phones where people need to share a phone. A headset is something a little bit more personal and you don’t want to share your headset with everybody.

With Lync, there is better collaboration because people can share information through the applications. Desktop support is also a lot better and it is a lot easier to set up a conference call.

Chris Robb: There continues to be a whole range of tools out there. If I look at a couple of the trends for enablement, I would say mobility and video are going to be real leaders in getting a much richer collaborative and communication experience.

If you want to attract and retain a generation that has been brought up with modern collaboration tools, you need to recognise they are used to constant change.

Chris Robb, ANZ

But you have to recognise some of the behaviours of your staff and that there are different generations of people: Some who have had paper memos and want to pick up the phone and talk, others who have grown up with social media, Twitter and Facebook. If you want to attract and retain a generation that has been brought up with modern collaboration tools, you need to recognise they are used to constant change, with new and improved ways of communicating and collaborating – and that will continue. You are looking at a younger generation growing up with a different way of learning at school, much more self-service; you know, ‘Google it.’

Vaughan Robertson:There’s a term that’s used in game development: ‘Discoverability’. You don’t do a half day training course for Minecraft. That’s not how the Internet generation, the digital natives, learn. They try out stuff on the application itself, ask their mate online, or search up a YouTube video.

What we should be doing is providing the collaboration tools to allow these groups of peers to be able to train each other... to ask each other what the problems are and to provide discoverability for each of the individual scenarios being undertaken.

Geoff Tribble:That’s exactly what we’ve done. We’ve got this huge archive now of internal e-learning for all the staff. So if I want to go and look up how the engineers do something, I can go through their e-learning tool to see what they actually do.

Campbell Such:We are looking at virtual training. We hope to develop an environment where we encourage people to do this. For instance, have an expert in one branch, who knows about the best way to organise a warehouse for a particular type of stock, produce the video, and then make it discoverable for everyone.

The shift to ‘as-a-service’

Phil Goodwin:The industry is still in the midst of a major change. In the past, organisations like ours sold you something, we integrated it and then supported it for you. Now everybody wants to buy ‘as-a-service’, and I think we’re all going to go there.

We have responded to client demand to deliver communications and collaboration ‘as-a-service’. This has a range of advantages such as offsetting costs and removing the burden of clients maintaining the platform themselves.

But during the next few years it will be painful for all of us, because that transformation is far from complete. One of the current challenges is that when consumers buy services, they will commit to one day, and commit to one device. The reality is that the organisations that serve the market have to buy in the old-fashioned way. They still have to buy from manufacturers, and they still have to commit to buying those assets on your behalf. So there is an obvious clash here in terms of demand side being different from our ability to supply.

Having that informed but neutral third party is important when brokering decisions about technology investments.

Phil Goodwin, Dimension Data

We encourage organisations that we work with to use this strategy when considering outsourcing: Identify applications that are ‘generic’ and those that are differentiators or core to the business – the ‘genetic’ applications. The quick wins will come from outsourcing the ‘generic’, enabling more focus to be placed on the ‘genetic’.

Vaughan Robertson: We’ve probably discovered two things in a three-year timeframe. First is that if you think you should go to software-as-a-service for cost purposes, you’d better be counting your chickens very carefully. The second is that very often we’re looking at software-as-a-service is because of the speed of change. Software life cycles are shortening and we don’t want to be trapped into the unchangeable functionality of a standalone or on-premise application. We are not going to be able to go back to the board and say, ‘I want to buy that again’ in three or five years. They’re not going to entertain the argument.

Leeann McCallum: You need to make sure you have a backup of your data before it goes into the cloud. One of the key points of geo-location is that whilst there is a copy in two places, this may not be considered as a suitable backup due to the active nature of the cloud. For example, if you get data corruption or a virus, that will just be replicated and then you have two copies of the corrupted data.

You need to make sure you have a backup of your data before it goes into the cloud.

Leeann McCallum, Beca

Dhaya Sivakumar: A number of years ago, I did a SaaS deal with a vendor and we were a bit concerned about performance. So we specifically did a deal where we named the hardware components that belonged to us as a company and they ran it for us within their environment. They managed the equipment, but we paid for it and we owned the asset. So if anything ever went wrong with them, we could go back and pull it out ourselves.

If you’ve got X amount of bodies or resources in your team or budget, you don’t really want to pay for them to look after an Exchange server necessarily or desktops. You want them doing new things for the new capability, getting your products out to market.

So if you can find a way to do that and still keep your unique IP and keep your secret sauce, that [cloud service] is of value.

Embracing ‘shadow IT’

Craig Columbus: We spend a lot of time on end-user education. For example, someone will ask, ‘Why can’t I take all of these client data files and dump them out on Dropbox for people to look at?’ We have all that firewalled off. I see who tries to do it and we go and have a conversation with them. And they say, ‘But it’s quick and easy. I can’t send 84 gigabytes through email so how am I going to do it?’

So then we begin the education process of what security means for our business, how do we get there, the solutions that we provide.

That becomes quite a big conversation, because ultimately at the end of the day, we deal with matters that can be quite sensitive and quite confidential. So security has to be a forefront for us. It’s an education process that we face every day to make sure they understand that just because something is quick and easy, it does not necessarily mean it meets the expectations of our business or our clients.

Andries van der Westhuizen: From my experience, people sign up for a cloud solution because they can access that through the Internet and you cannot block everything. You need to be an educator and let people understand IT governance because if you are very strict, you become the department of ‘no’.

You need to be an educator and let people understand IT governance because if you are very strict, you become the department of ‘no’.

Andries van der Westhuizen, Stevenson Group

On the rare occasion, people might go to the cloud without our prior knowledge. But as soon as we become aware of it, rather than block them, we assess if there are any issues, highlight these and work with them to resolve it.

Then we start to bring the cloud service under our sphere. One way of doing so is to incorporate the cloud service data into business intelligence. We take the information, present the report to them and also potentially work on its integration with the other systems.

Phil Goodwin: Business unit expectations are being fuelled by consumerisation of IT. They know what their peers are doing and know what they can do at home. But often they have no sense of the reality of making this happen in the workplace. IT is coming from the other direction, and are obliged to give reasons for not doing it. Somewhere in between someone has to be the voice of reason, explaining what is achievable, and help the two parties reach consensus.

We have gone through this process with one organisation, where we assisted them as a third party. We interviewed the business users, and the CIO and IT team were at the other side of the table. We got them to agree where they were, their current state, and where they wanted to get to, their target state. Once they agreed, getting a budget, developing a plan and building a roadmap became easier. Having that informed but neutral third party, who knows the challenges and what other organisations are doing, and able to listen to both sides, is important when brokering decisions about technology investments. Photos by Tony Nyberg

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