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Stories by Divina Paredes

Driving for change

Garry Collings says it is "miserably wrong" for people not to view the CIO as someone who can readily transition to a general management role.

Written by Divina Paredes19 April 11 06:09

Strategic shift

A number of CIOs have been tapped on the shoulder recently to reprise their role -- but in another industry, or in another country. We talk to CIOs who accepted this challenge.

Written by Divina Paredes05 April 11 10:53

IRD cited for ‘effective use’ of Facebook

A Gartner analyst singled out the Inland Revenue Department for effectively using Facebook to inform people hit by the recent earthquake about tax relief, impact of a potential loss of tax records, changes in tax status and donation opportunities.
“This is a very good practice,” says Andrea de Maio, of the Inland Revenue - Canterbury Earthquake Facebook page. “No thrills and frills, no feedback allowed, no engagement for the sake of engagement, just a stream of very focused news and information of the kind one would expect from a revenue agency.”
Di Maio is a vice president at Gartner and his research focuses on the public sector particularly on e-government strategies and Web 2.0.
“A lot of government agencies around the world are using Facebook as a cooler (they wish!) alternative to their websites,” Di Maio writes in a recent blog. “As a consequence, the value added they provide is limited, which is reflected into low number of friends / followers and modest interaction.”
To comment on this article, please email the editor.

Written by Divina Paredes22 March 11 23:00

Construction and utility top adopters of ruggedised tablets

Improvements in real-time decision making and increased worker productivity are the key benefits for enterprises that have deployed tablet PCs.
Brett Gross, regional manager, Australia and New Zealand for Motion Computing, says this is particularly true for on-site staff in construction and utility and health workers, who are among the users of their ruggedised tablet PCs. He says they have also been getting calls from organisations involved in emergency services.

Written by Divina Paredes13 March 11 22:00

Northern district health boards merge non-clinical services

The three district health boards in Auckland and the Northland district health board are merging their non-clinical services into one organisation, to be known as healthAlliance New Zealand Ltd.
The shared services operation is the latest large scale public sector merger following the creation of the Auckland Supercity.

Written by Divina Paredes21 Feb. 11 22:00

Ready, set, grow!

Campbell Such says becoming CIO was not a specific goal for him when he left university with an engineering degree. It was the result of taking on a series of opportunities locally and offshore, which led to his current role as general manager IT at Bidvest New Zealand."But having done it, I love it," says Such who has been with the food supply company for nearly two-and-a-half years. "For me, the key is not the technology per se. It is how you can use technology to help the business achieve its goal. That is the essence of what I love about my role. It is working with customers, working with our internal teams building those relationships, and then helping business to grow through the use of technology."The company is a wholesale distributor for the food service and hospitality industry, being part of an international group with operations in Australia, the UK, South Africa, Europe, Singapore and China. Customers include hotels, cafes, restaurants and aged-care facilities. "We have more than 11,000 customers in New Zealand and close to 30,000 product lines."The company has grown significantly in the past 10 years and continues to do so."We have gone from small to medium to large [enterprise], and we need to keep our IT systems ahead of the business requirements. The business is prepared to invest for the future. Where I am at the moment, is continuing to build the foundation to grow the business on. That is where I will be over the next two to five years, working with the business to continue growth."He and his team are in the midst of an infrastructure and applications refresh to ensure their systems can support this growth. He compares it with changing the foundation of a house that has become too small for the occupants. "We are lifting it out, pulling out the foundations, replacing the foundations and the plumbing and the wiring, and then putting it back down hopefully without affecting the business too much. We are building a platform from where we will build a 10-storey building as the business grows.""We can't run the business without technology," says Such, who cites the company processes some 180,000 invoices a month alone. "We know that going forward, technology is going to be just a bigger and bigger part of the business. But I want to isolate the techie technology from the people that need to be able to use it. They should just be able to use it [to do their jobs].""We are seriously thinking about what we need to take on board in our systems. The company is prepared to invest to provide the environment to support our customers' requirements."In conjunction with the building of the infrastructure, you must keep an eye on technology that will help the business," he says. "What are the opportunities and what are the potentials of the technologies. And of the systems we can use to help to continue to grow the business?"What he finds advantageous is support from the top for these initiatives. "There is a willingness and understanding of technology in our business right at the highest level."<strong>Global and local support</strong>Being part of an international business has given him opportunities to talk with his counterparts in other areas of the globe, particularly in Australia. "Their business is four times bigger than ours."He says weathering the recession was a challenge, but that the business had the resilience and the strength to grow through it. He finds having a "fantastic, very entrepreneurial team" in the support area of the business and the branches a big help. He says Bidvest has grown in New Zealand, but still retains a "small business heart"."We are not a corporate structure with command and control." For instance, there is no headquarters; instead there is a central support office with a network of distribution centres (DC) around the country. Each distribution centre is a stand-alone profit centre. "The DC general managers are empowered to do what they need to do to operate the business successfully in their region."The IT team is also set up to support this type of operation. Such says the IT operates from the central office. It is an internal team of five with outsourced support around software development and infrastructure. "We run an internal help desk," he says. "But if we need more help or more resources, we work with our outsourcers."He holds regular meetings with the other senior executives. "Each month, we hold an IT steering group meeting. I meet with the managing director and one of the senior execs to review what is going on, what their priorities are and to make sure I am working on the right things. That is the chance to understand more about what we need to do and how we need to do it, and how we can positively impact the business."He is encouraging the other business units to discuss with IT what is going on in their departments. "We are not looking for control, it is more around supporting people."A key success factor for him is communicating what IT is doing with the rest of the Bidvest staff. His team produces a newsletter every two months with online and print versions that detail what projects they are working on. He finds this to be a very useful process. "It helps me to better communicate with the business and to do that on an ongoing basis. Communication is really important. Trying to find the best way to communicate with the business in what we are doing and the value that we can add is something that I have a particular focus on."He says one thing that has never changed in the industry is this: "IT is there to support the business and do what it needs to do to achieve this [growth]."If at all, the shift is around <a href="http://cio.co.nz/cio.nsf/read/39453C208A3E4DBBCC257836007DCCC8"><u>the role of the CIO</u></a>, who has gone beyond being seen as a technology leader. "The CIO is now engaged with the rest of the business, [and is] more around the support of revenue generation."I see IT as such a key part of the business. We could not run our business without it. I see my role becoming the consultative adviser and to become part of the teams across the business, when they are doing their planning and decision-making."We have seen IT leaders move into general management roles or senior roles in business," he says. "I see the role more as becoming closer and closer to the decision-making and strategy process."In the past two years, his focus has been on the internal systems and building the platform to grow the business. But in the next 12 to 18 months, Such says he is looking at other things for the business to grow.At the time of the interview, Bidvest has just issued iPads to eight members of the executive team as part of a pilot project. The initiative came from Bidvest managing director Nigel Boswell. For Such, the pilot is part of preparing for the expected rise in user demand and requirements for mobile tools. Bidvest has an online ordering system where 40 percent of its business is transacted. That is a huge amount of business, he says, as he estimates that with a turnover of more than $500 million in a year, this means more than $200 million goes though the online ordering system.A chef finishes for the day, gets online at 2 am and sees what he wants to order. They have the ability to create menus online and to have the cost of those worked out and to place orders for automatic delivery the next day. "It has become hugely important for our customers and it has been a fantastic benefit for us in terms of our own operational ability to do things more quickly," he says.The online ordering system, with its "incredibly business-focused applications", has been a success for the company having been running for around seven years. But he says the company continues to develop it, citing an ongoing project to develop an application that will run on the iPhone and iPad.He says there are two broad sets of people who will be impacted by wireless -- the next generation of chefs who use these devices and who will expect to have that stuff available to them to do things. Then, there are also the people they want to attract as employees. "We need to consider how we will be able to provide the tools and the environment for them to be attracted to us as a business, and to grow our customer base and bring on good employees."<strong>When opportunity knocks</strong>Such is the first CIO [GM IT] for Bidvest New Zealand. He joined the company from Healtheries New Zealand, which produces health and food supplements for the retail sector. His first exposure to IT was in a technical marketing role with Data General (now part of EMC). He worked for a small business and then went back to IT when he ran a digital imaging bureau, before taking on the role of systems manager with Jenkins Group. Through contacts made in this role, he was offered the role of director of IT for Sinclair Systems International based in California.His three-year stint at Sinclair gave him the unique chance to lead teams based in the US and the UK, simultaneously. For nearly five months, he commuted back and forth between the offices in Fresno, California, and the head office in Norwich, England. "It gave me a chance to get out of New Zealand and get more of a global perspective," says Such."That was an interesting take on different cultures, different ways of doing business," he adds "It was a great opportunity for me to broaden some skills and understand how different people can be in different cultures.""The American and British cultures are quite different," he says. "The MD of Sinclair used to say it was two countries divided by the same language."Such came back to New Zealand to work as general manager for Productivity Software, running the development arm of the software vendor that specialised in ERP systems for the printing industry.A little known insight in his career path, which this writer gleaned during a background research, is some part-time work Such did at university as a model. Queried about this career derivation, Such says the work came about when his sister, who was doing a modelling course at that time, told him they were looking for male models."I was in my early 20s and so I went along," says Such. "They took some photos and I got work out of it for probably a couple of years."He recalls doing a television advertisement for a chocolate bar. "It was interesting and it was fun.""It was just a short-term thing," he says, with a laugh. "And they never called me from the Ford modelling agency in New York.""IT management -- it is much more fun."

Written by Divina Paredes18 Feb. 11 10:47

Testing the cloud

"Identify a high value application that you have within the business and start there," is the key advice Kirsten Wolberg, CIO of Salesforce.com has, for enterprises making the initial moves from on-premise apps to the cloud environment."If you are actually working with an application that adds a lot of value really quickly and is important to the business, it is a really good business case to show the power and flexibility of the applications," says Wolberg, in an interview at the recent Dreamforce conference in San Francisco where she was one of the speakers.Peter Coffee, head of platform research, Salesforce.com, echoes her advice. "I don't want you to replace anything that is working well enough for you [and] generating good ROI," says Coffee. "Take about 20 applications that some VPs in the company really, really wish will be right for him or her that you have not been able to deliver. If [you] can take the wish list of five VPs and do the top two items on the list, that is 10 apps you can probably write in six months in force.com," says Coffee. "All of a sudden, those five VPs no longer think of you as a cost centre to be minimised but instead think of you as a value partner to be nurtured and to be given more resources. That is a much more attractive environment for the CIO to be in."Wolberg and Coffee say cloud technology provides opportunities for CIOs to become more strategic, and downplay concerns it will diminish the role. "Every major change within any industry puts people at risk and those who succeed are those who change with or are ahead of the change, as opposed to those who fight it," says Wolberg. "It [the shift to the cloud] is a great opportunity for CIOs to be more involved in the strategy of the company and not just focusing on the technology side of the business. I see it as a fantastic opportunity for CIOs to define the value they add to the organisation. It will allow CIOs to have more strategic conversations with their executive peers."Cloud computing, she says, is "fundamentally a shift in the change to how values are being delivered in enterprises and as a CIO. You can fight it, but ultimately you [as] the CIO will end up losing. But if you embrace it and you figure out how your role is changing and embrace these new technologies and help this organisation, that is how the CIO can be more successful."Coffee, on the other hand, says it would be a mistake to think a move to the cloud is a "daring exercise in risk taking". He says from the experiences of the early adopters who spoke at the conference, the cloud is "making their lives simpler and less exciting so they can focus on business benefits".He says the CIO role is not being made redundant as more enterprises move to the cloud because "now, the CIO is a value-creation partner to the business rather than being a cost centre"."CIOs are made redundant when the work they do is easily outsourceable. And if all you are doing is running the email and keeping the server farm running, you are very outsourceable. But if you are running a team of business process engineers who are out there in the business units everyday, actively working with people to solve their problems, that is not outsourceable. That is the kind of thing you want an in-house IT team to do."<strong><em>CIO editor Divina Paredes attended Dreamforce in San Francisco as a guest of Salesforce.com.</em></strong>

Written by Divina Paredes15 Feb. 11 12:00

Outlook for the new decade

A panel of ICT leaders discuss the business technology issues that will have the most impact in networked enterprises -- and how to manage them.

Written by Divina Paredes09 Feb. 11 07:52

Thriving on disruptive change

Click here for a report on the companies that made it to the Strategic 100 list.
The recession just past came at a time when the information and technology industry was experiencing a range of transition of sorts &#8212; from the way technology is delivered, the development of new devices, along with rise in user demands and expectations.

Written by Divina Paredes18 Jan. 11 22:00

Big day out for CIOs

Today's CIOs are busier than ever, but business strategist Donna Sturgess says a day off from the office for an "immersion" will refresh their view of the organisation, and generate new ideas for innovation.

Written by Divina Paredes11 Jan. 11 04:39

Firing on all cylinders

CFOs are taking a more prominent role in enterprise decision-making. "The CFOs are in the boardroom and executive level discussions and carry more weight than ever," says Gary Obbes, consultant in financial management practice, IBM New Zealand.Finance in the past was seen as one of the back-office functions, now it is something that can drive value for the enterprise, says Obbes, who conducted the local surveys for the IBM 2010 Global CFO Study.The survey involved 1900 senior finance executives in 81 countries, with 27 New Zealand finance chiefs included.The survey reveals more than 70 percent of CFOs provide advisory roles or are in decision-making roles. But while CFOs find their roles elevated, the study finds they face intense pressure on three areas -- reducing the enterprise cost base, making faster and more accurate decisions and providing more transparency to external stakeholders. The pressure in these areas is expected to increase dramatically over the next three years.While there are signs of stability, the new economic environment is likely to be a period of low economic growth. The question for CFOs, he says, is how to make the enterprise smarter during this period of uncertainty.<strong>Implication for CIOs</strong>A key finding in the survey is that since 2005, the enterprise focus of driving integration of information across the enterprise has more than doubled -- from 35 percent to 73 percent.The need for faster decision-making and demand for external transparency -- which together with cost has been identified as the top pressures for CFOs -- are linked together, says Obbes. "The CIO absolutely has a fundamental role to play in that, because it is a demand from the CEO and the organisation to provide this information and answer these questions," says Obbes. "Therefore, I see his priorities aligning with the priorities of the CEO and the CFO in that regard, the driving of integration of information."There are two fundamentals to achieve this, says Obbes. First is standardisation of data definitions, the governance around data and putting a framework around data governance and finally providing the analytical tools in place. He says around 50 percent of finance's time is still spent on transactional activities and CFOs are trying to drive that down to 30 to 35 percent, and divert that effort into analytics and analysis. Therefore, the CIO has a role to play in helping drive the automation of, for example, "systems talking to each other".The CFOs responded generally, particularly in New Zealand, that their finance systems and financial information have a high degree of reliability and is highly automated, says Obbes. Operational information, on the other hand, is lower down in terms of automation and in the degree of confidence."This whole idea of integration of information is really about joining those two together," he explains. "It is really associating our finance number with whatever the activity or unit was behind that to get a ratio or a measure of sorts which makes sense of the number and the data."He says while there has been "a little more room for investment" compared to the past year, the pressure to manage the cost base remains. For the CIO, says Obbes, there are two things to consider: How does the CIO contain costs in his own organisation and how to meet the expectation that productivity will increase amidst flat or reduced costs."What does the CIO have to do in order to manage that cost base?"Obbes says the CIO needs to "think creatively". This includes looking to create a variable cost base. This could be through outsourcing, partnering, leasing, use of external datacentre and shared services. He cites at least two financial companies that have gone further -- creating a 'centre of excellence' in New Zealand to also support Australia. The government, on the other hand, is doing this through shared services. While he says the 'centre of excellence' model and shared services overlap, there are distinct differences. Obbes explains a shared services model will be along the lines of getting similar processes together and putting people working on them in one area. With a 'centre of excellence', a high degree of expertise that is required in one area is centralised and can serve the parent company. In finance, for instance, this will be a group of finance analysts producing information and doing the analysis for the business. In IT, this can also mean concentrating IT resources in one place to look after the parent company offshore.<strong>The four types of CFOs</strong>The IBM study listed four different profiles of CFOs: constrained advisors, discipline operators, scorekeepers and value integrators.The last group -- the value integrators -- was found to consistently outperform their peers in all key financial metrics by driving two key qualities across their organisation: Finance efficiency through the use of common process and data standards across the organisation, and business insight capability.So what is the implication for CIOs?"Because he controls the purse strings, the CIO absolutely has to have a good relationship with the CFO. The CFO will have a say on how much money is spent, whether some things are affordable or not; therefore he needs to understand the benefit of taking certain courses of action."The relationship, however, must be "symbiotic", says Obbes. "Similarly the CFO can partner with the CIO to help him understand his cost space, to help him understand where he may be able to save.Drilling in on the four types of CFOs, Obbes says none of the local respondents were in the constrained advisors quadrant, compared to 12 percent of global figures. The New Zealand results show 63 percent of respondents (compared to 32 percent globally) are disciplined operators. The figures for both the two other types of CFOs -- scorekeepers and value integrators are the same -- 19 percent.

Written by Divina Paredes17 Dec. 10 11:22

Army brat stays in the game

Being in the Army is a 'family tradition' for John Holley. His grandfather fought in World Wars one and two, and his father was a soldier and mechanic, and later on, a supplier, in the Army. So Holley grew up living in military bases across New Zealand. On a summer break from Massey University, where he was studying computer science, Holley worked as a driver in the Linton Army Camp in Palmerston North. After graduation, he moved to a number of IT management, sales, and consulting roles, including at the University of Auckland, the Royal New Zealand Foundation of the Blind, and most recently, the Auckland Regional Council where he was a CIO and acting General Manager Operations. Yet, Holley never really left the Army. Today, he is a reserve officer, with the rank of Lt Colonel. He joined an operational deployment to East Timor in 2002, and spends 60 to 80 days a year working with the NZ Defence Force where he is a staff officer at the Directorate of Reserve Forces and Youth Development. He spends two weeks a year teaching operational planning and leadership at the Canadian Forces College in Toronto. He explains why he never really left his holiday job 28 years ago."For me it has always been about being involved in some other stuff that gives a bit of diversity. People get confused; here is John Holley the geek running around, shooting weapons. There is a bit of discontinuity for some people. But the key thing for me is the stuff I learned about leadership and management that does not really come from the IT environment. "Even as a part-time soldier or officer, every year you train staff, and are given opportunities around leadership. You are taught about strategic geopolitical theory, strategy, leadership, a whole range of things to turn you into a senior officer. When you go away and do this planning, you work in environments where you can actually make a significant difference -- good or bad -- by your actions. It is no good to say 'all I know how to do is shoot a rifle'. You need to understand strategy."When I was in East Timor, I was the planning officer for the New Zealand battalion. My job was to write the plans and I was writing those on behalf of the commanding officer and we were a multinational battalion. You can apply that framework to almost anything."I do the same thing in a different way [at ARC, now part of the Auckland Council]. It was about, what are you looking to achieve, what is the business looking to achieve? It challenges your assumptions... It is interesting going to some seminars recently there has been quite a bit of stuff around virtualisation and how you present it to the business. It is almost like they missed the mark because they start talking about consolidation of servers, everything else that comes back to IT being a cost. If you are talking about what are the services you want to enable [with virtualisation], that is a different conversation.""In the Army, you are being constantly evaluated on your leadership. You are an officer 24x7. You have what you call the 'game face'. You have to motivate and lead people."

Written by Divina Paredes17 Dec. 10 11:17

Extreme obstacle course for CIOs

A group of ICT executives have crossed the Tongariro Alpine Crossing four consecutive times in 29 hours and raised $66,000 for Kia Timata Ano (KTA) Trust, a women&#8217;s refuge in the Rodney District.

Written by Divina Paredes30 Nov. 10 22:00

When IT is the business

&#8220;We look at our own projects as templates for our customers.&#8221;
This, says Steve Matheson, is the first key difference he faces at Datacom New Zealand that his CIO colleagues in other enterprises may not otherwise encounter.

Written by Divina Paredes06 Nov. 10 22:00

Expert on call

CIOs are increasingly being asked to lead initiatives beyond ICT. CIOs share their insights on managing this challenge

Written by Divina Paredes22 Oct. 10 10:57