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The culling of CIOs

The culling of CIOs

What happens when the CIO role is 'disestablished'?

A company ‘disestablishes’ the CIO position and splits the role into two – both a rung lower than the CIO and reporting to the CFO, who once had the CIO as a direct report. A CIO is made redundant, resigns or takes another position in the company and is not replaced. An IT director may be appointed but does not have the same access or strategic responsibilities of the former CIO. The company may or may not hire a CIO in the near future.

Do these scenarios ring a bell? They should, because in the past two years there have been real life stories of CIO roles being abolished in New Zealand and Australia.

Geoff Lazberger, who has been holding ICT executive positions for more than 30 years now, calls this development the “culling of CIOs”. Lazberger, who was CIO of MFS, a funds management and investment company with interests in Australia and New Zealand and until recently CIO of Stella Resorts Group, says the redundancy could be rationalised if the CIO was deemed incompetent.

But when this is not the case, and no replacement is named he says; “There is no one single individual empowered to provide strategic technology direction or make sure IT is executed correctly and efficiently because IT divisional managers are focused on their own operations and ‘keeping the lights on’.

“There is no conduit across the different channels within IT to make sure the right hand and the left hand know what it is doing. These are all the reasons why you bring on board the CIO in the first place. You need a strategy — without strategy… there is only drift.”

He says the new set-up can work, but it is a “very reactive model”. He notes, “Reactive IT can work but it is more stressful, more costly and a much higher risk to the business. And it’s not a nice IT environment to work in day in, day out.”

His pointers for CIOs concerned about recent company strategy and attitudes towards ICT? “Keep your resume up-to-date, keep your eyes open.”

His to do list for today’s CIOs falls under the acronym APP:

A for attitude. It is incumbent upon the board and senior management to understand the value of IT to their business, and IT as an enabler in the business; and to understand the value of their business information and support the CIO. The CIO plays a role in developing this attitude for the board to understand that “it is all about information no matter what IT initiatives you implement”.

P for people. This is mandatory. “Attract and retain good people and encourage them to stay.” People with 20-plus years experience are good for the business and can help save money, time and stress with their experience.

P for pragmatism. “It is all about ensuring everything you do is to increase revenues, decrease costs, improve business processes, address governance or execute IT according to best practice.” The CIO has to balance “time, quality, cost and functionality” in the ICT function.

Join the CIO New Zealand group on LinkedIn. The group is open to CIOs, IT Directors, COOs, CTOs and senior IT managers.

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