It's a truism. Technology change is the easy part. Changing people is the hard part. Or, as Housing New Zealand's Paul Duxfield puts it as he talks about the corporation's move to voice over IP: "Probably the biggest challenges we had weren't the technology but the organizational side around it."
Stories by Don Hill
Listen to the pundits and they will tell you where things are heading -- how in the future you might want to call yourself a Chief Process Officer rather than CIO. That's old news for Owen McCall, CIO at The Warehouse. For him, the future is already here. The only difference is that McCall thinks of his CPOs as IT domain leaders or, if you like, mini-CIOs.
If you're feeling frazzled by the pounding pressures of change management, spare a thought for someone who is probably in an even tougher situation than you are. That person is SkyCity CIO Damian Swaffield. In the six years he has been with the business it has gone from generating around A$350 million (US$257 million) in revenue to become one of Australasia's leading entertainment businesses with group revenues of A$680 million.
Bill Vass is a bit different from other CIOs. For a start, he is CIO at one of the IT information industry's giants, Sun Microsystems. That's one big job. Then he has the other role of interfacing with customers. That's a huge role too.
The first thing you notice about Peter Burggraaff is his accent. He’s from the Netherlands, and if his temperament is anything like that of the stereotypical Dutch native – solid, reliable, no-nonsense -- he’s probably a perfect candidate for CIO. Just the right type to take the Farmers retail operation into the new world of IT in the new millennium.
You can imagine the logic as the board members debate the topic. "Um, we have a security problem. Someone could break into our computer system and wreck our business." Then the wise leaders make a decision: it's a computer issue, so therefore it belongs with IT to resolve.
Carter Holt Harvey’s Forests business has a secret. It’s not just about the breadth of its new tree-to-customer computer implementation. It’s much more than that. What’s immediately evident as soon as you meet the project team is, well, its synchronicity. Put these people together and you can immediately see how Project Canopy has come together as a world-leading implementation that encompasses planning and managing forestry operations, harvesting and distribution across the business’s entire supply chain.
This easy sense of camaraderie, this synchronicity, has enabled the project team under Forests chief executive Jeremy Fleming and business planning manager Roger Kay to fulfil an implementation that is already making an impact on the way the organisation manages its business and meets its targets. Not only that, and perhaps of less importance, is the fact that it expects to show a return on its hefty investment within just two years.
Auckland University CIO Stephen Whiteside, left, is affable and relaxed as we sit down with IT support services head Tim Chaffe for a coffee and a chat on an upper-level terrace that forms part of a lobby and coffee bar for post-graduate IT students and lecturers at the multi-level IT learning centre in the campus’s crowded heart. Chaffe is similarly cheerful as we take in the view out towards the Skytower at the top of a rise on the other side of the city’s main thoroughfare, Queen Street. The busy campus, with the hundreds of students congregating in the computer-equipped learning halls, is blessed by the proximity of Albert Park and its huge Morton Bay fig trees.
Rowan Duncan (left) and Alex Cruden (below) are CIOs at different Auckland-based companies but they have more in common than they might realise. Both men have no doubts about their decision to go with thin clients.
Inside every CIO there’s an old tech-head who dreams of having large resources to spend on technology. All in the interests of business, of course.Seriously, though, Te Papa’s Neil Cowley has probably come as close to having the dream job that most tech-orientated CIOs might relish. Try to explain that to him that and he will tell you that it ain’t so at all. Yes, his 8% budget, measured as a percentage of expenditure, is probably twice that of most other CIOs. But the museum’s needs are unique, and it certainly isn’t all fun when you are running a high-bandwidth, high-demand operation that’s online for 375 days a year, 24 hours a day. In fact, it’s enough to make you downright sober.
Renaissance man? Con Colovos almost baulks at the suggestion. Nah, he is a true blue Aussie. But, heck, when he talks about himself he comes across as a sort of wunderkind of technology and business. Well, let’s be fair: there is nothing wrong with having colossal confidence in yourself as long as you show you are deemed worthy of the title by your comrades in business. The thing about Colovos is that he comes across as being very worthy indeed.
Colovos’s mission, at least for the past four years, has been to bring Australian fresh produce giant Moraitis out of the stone age and into the future of produce distribution. Now, after establishing a new ERP system, he is embarking where probably no other vegetable distribution business has gone before: into RFID, or radio frequency ID tags.
IT services management – it’s a challenging role at the best of times but when you hear Darryn Baker talk about it you would be hard put not to believe it is the most fulfilling job on the planet. It’s not as if Baker’s job is easier than most – probably the opposite, in fact. It’s just that he appears to have found a methodology that is inspiring both him and his staff at Auckland City Council.
“To do a job like this you need to be a good people person,” says Baker. “You need to have an awareness of IT best practices. That’s fundamental. As an operational manager you need to understand that whatever we do has an impact on the business – and it’s a serious business. It’s about doing much more with less for business.”
You can’t touch it, you can’t feel it. It doesn’t bring any discernible benefits to your business. You might even have trouble defining it. We’re talking about infrastructure, of course, and two CIOs who have fought to tame it – and won.
Mark Wilkinson of Tenon and Andrew Cammell of DB Breweries spent some time last year at a series of Microsoft gatherings explaining how their back-to-basics focus on infrastructure has delivered positive business benefits that everyone understands. Their innovations have earned them respect from their business peers and has enabled them to concentrate on building relationships and developing strategic issues rather than having to spend most of their time fighting forest fires.
Document Management Technology New Zealand is helping Auckland company Anuva develop a linking engine that will enable companies to share and update common data-sets across the various database products within a business.
By Don Hill
Gartner group vice-president Craig Baty has issued a wakeup call to CIOs. “Today’s CIOs need to be able to demonstrate the business value of IT in the same way that other business units have been required to do in the past,” he says.