David Spaziani: CIO to Gartner executive

David Spaziani: CIO to Gartner executive

David Spaziani has worked in a global technology company, as CIO of a government agency, and now rounds up his experience as an executive partner at Gartner.

David Spaziani at the 2015 CIO100 event in Auckland.
David Spaziani at the 2015 CIO100 event in Auckland.

Going to the ‘dark side’ is used to describe CIOs joining a technology vendor. So what do you call the move from CIO to analyst?

“It is not going one side or the other, it is going into the middle,” says David Spaziani, who joined analyst firm Gartner four years ago.

“What I saw from being on the vendor side and on the customer side, there was a gulf, sometimes a misunderstanding and miscommunication between the two.

“For me, this was an opportunity to help bridge that gulf, of finding a way to bring the two sides together,” says Spaziani, who is executive partner at Gartner Executive Programs, working with CIOs and other C-level executives on both sides of the Tasman.

He says this role makes full use of his 28-year experience in ICT. Spaziani was CIO of the Department of Internal Affairs in 2006 to 2010. He had also worked as program manager for the Ministry of Economic Development (now part of the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment). Before joining government, he worked at EDS (now part of HP), Unisys and Kodak, and as a research programmer at Melbourne University.

Upon leaving DIA, Spaziani “stepped back” and assessed his career. He then worked as an independent consultant and “virtual CIO” to small organisations, before taking on the role at Gartner.

David Spaziani at a CIO panel discussion.
David Spaziani at a CIO panel discussion.

You need to be on your game at all times.

David Spaziani, Gartner

Read more: ​Mission: Clarity in communication

“You really get to look at what are genuinely the big issues for a CIO or for an organisation without having the day to day operational issues to worry about,” he says on his current role.

“You need to be clear and current about what you will offer them,” he says. “The challenge is to make sure you sort out the vast information around you, turn it into something that makes sense, and not bombard them with more information to sort through.”

As for the unexpected side of his role, he says, “I learned more about the softer side of organisations and people interaction than technical… how people communicate, the relationship dynamics people have with their manager or within an organisation.”

Read more: ​The pathway to becoming CIO

He says focusing on these ‘softer skills’ is important as they are key elements to whatever issues the organisation faces.

He finds himself using this quote from Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius when discussing the ‘softer skills’ of organisations. “Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact. Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth.”

“If it was good enough for a Roman emperor, it is good enough for you and me,” says Spaziani. “He had to deal with politics and above all organisations, and with organisational dynamics that are far more tricky than anything we have to deal with.”

'Critical listening'

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‘Listening’ is a skill he developed as a CIO that he finds useful now but clarifies “it has got to be knowledgeable and critical listening”.

Having worked on a raft of projects with major technology components is something he brings to the role.

“If I did not understand the domain and did not have an appreciation of the breadth and depth of issues people may want to talk to you about, I would not be able to help very much, I would not be able to really listen.

“It is more than consulting,” he says. “Consulting is more about being a generalist and then providing management answers. You need to understand the technical environment as well.

Read more: The secrets of today's successful digital leaders

“You need to have a look at the architecture and say, ‘This program plan and objective is going to fail,’ for example. You need the background to be able to do that.

“I would relate their situation to not just what our research says, or what other people are doing, but when you tried it yourself you will be able to tell those stories too.”

Spaziani says his current work schedule is very different from his days as CIO.

He works closely with Gartner clients on both sides of the Tasman. “It really varies week to week because it depends on the priorities of the organisation,” he says.

Read more: Don't fall victim to 'siloed' thinking: Vinh Giang

He discusses various work programs and particular issues, and sometimes helps in the interview for a replacement CIO. Other times he helps a CIO prepare for a presentation to the board or an industry conference.

“This work has helped me learn all the things that a CIO should be doing, and what they should be doing differently,” he says.

And more so now, as CIOs are working through the shifting of their role to become more of a digital leader, he says.

“Having that sort of challenge, having to do that would be wonderful,” says Spaziani. “I know how to do it a lot better than before.”

Read more: 7 shifts that will impact sectors in the next 20 years
David Spaziani at the 2015 CIO100 forum in Wellilngton.
David Spaziani at the 2015 CIO100 forum in Wellilngton.

'Match fit'

To this, he applies the term “match fit” as an important characteristic for today’s leader.

Read more: ​Rising to the digital challenge? Think bimodal

“It is practising the skills you need for the situation, to not just have access to information or being able to answer questions,” he explains.

“It is being able to listen constantly, know the context between situations, bring clarity to the situation, choose between different models of operating, and then make a decision.

“You need to be on your game at all times.”

Related: Object lessons: Mary Ann Maxwell of Gartner says some of the greatest lessons that helped her reach the top of her profession were forged during the years before she went into ICT.

Read more: Gartner to enterprises: ‘May the algorithmic force be with you’

This is part of a special report in the Spring 2015 edition of CIO New Zealand on: What is next after CIO?

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