Around the table
Kevin Ackhurst, managing director, Microsoft NZ
Stories by Divina Paredes
Around the table
New Zealand is a “branch economy” of Australia whether you like it or not, says M. Gordon Hunter, professor, information systems at The University of Lethbridge in Canada and author of Contemporary Chief Information Officer: Management Experiences. “In other words, the head office is in Australia, the branch office is in New Zealand.
“The problem is when you have the branch office CTO called the CIO,” says Hunter, who has just completed a two-month teaching and research stint at Massey University. “You are limited by what you do.”
Hazel Jennings is working hard towards making her systems more customer-focused, though this isn’t because she is trying to expand her market. “In an ideal world, we wouldn’t be here,” says Jennings, IT manager at the Royal New Zealand Foundation of the Blind. “It would be great if nobody needed us.”
She has a compact team — around five — composed of technical and non-technical staff and works with an outsourced infrastructure team.
Richard Tims doesn’t believe in having a “strategic plan” for IT.
“It should, in essence, be part of [the] overall business strategic plan,” says Tims, chief information officer of Paymark, which owns the largest Eftpos switch in New Zealand. “All projects, IT or otherwise, are about business outcomes and need to be justified on that basis. I don’t think I am doing my job unless that is the case.”
Change management is already a given in the essential skills portfolio of CIOs.
These days, however, this skill extends to much more — applying it to an increasingly complex environment.
The CIO role can ‘disappear’ but only for the right reasons, asserts Marcel van den Assum, a professional director and independent advisor.
By this, says the former Fonterra CIO, “You have got to the point of maturity in your organisation where the executive leadership has embedded IS principles and understanding, and that is a reflection of the information revolution having run its course.”
Trade Me has achieved its target of carbon neutral status before the middle of this year, says the company’s chief executive.
Jon Macdonald, who announced the company’s goal in the CIO cover story in February, says Trade Me worked with Deloitte and Landcare Research for the project.
Murray Mitchell has been appointed ICT manager of the New Zealand Police, replacing Rohan Mendis who retired in December.
He will lead a 248-person strong IT organisation, according to the just released MIS 100.
When it comes to sectors dominating this year’s MIS100 organisations, there were few surprises. Government, health and education comprise more than half of the list, as they have since MIS100 started tracking the country’s top users of ICT in the past 11 years.
If at all, the variances that emerge from this annual report have been about the challenges faced by the heads of the ICT departments of these organisations, and their decisions about investments in technology and systems.
Rob Fyfe is one of the few chief executive officers with a CIO role on his CV.
However, in Fyfe’s case, his ascent from ICT chief to the top table has been swift, at just under three years, and within the same enterprise.
Two years ago, Commander Corina Bruce spoke in a forum in Wellington organised by this magazine, then known as MIS (Managing Information Strategies). The event was about “The CIOs of tomorrow” and featured ICT leaders from across the country sharing their insights on how to have a successful career in the sector, and beyond.
In a crowd of 350 and a panel of CIOs, Bruce stood out, effortlessly. And not just because she was the sole female CIO on the panel that included 10 other CIOs, or that she was in uniform. If my memory serves me right, the master of ceremonies, after reading her credentials including her expertise in guided weapons, said something about this being one person you wouldn’t want to mess up with.
For C.S. Louis (not his real name), losing his job as chief information officer at a medium-sized enterprise did not come as a surprise. The company had been ‘delayering’ some senior executive posts for the previous six months.
However, that didn’t erase or ease the feeling of rejection, as he puts it, when the management deemed it was time for IS to be “restructured”.
In the past year or so, there have been a number of changes in the CIO roles in New Zealand. Some CIO positions have been disestablished. There are also cases where a CIO resigns or is asked to take a ‘gardening leave’ and the position is not filled in. An IT director or a previous direct report to the CIO takes over the responsibility.
We talk to a former CIO who has seen these scenarios take place. This CIO, now working as a business consultant, has requested anonymity as he shares his views on some disturbing developments on what is happening to the CIO roles in New Zealand.
Leading change effectively
Andrew Diver, manager, systems development and programme management, Vero Insurance
Former Prime Minister David Lange once said New Zealand's destiny was to be a theme park (and Australia's, a quarry). “We can surely think and act beyond that,” states Dr Paul Callaghan, the Alan MacDiarmid professor of physical sciences at the Victoria University of Wellington.
Callaghan, who spoke on the topic Beyond the Farm and the Theme Park during the recent CIO Leaders’ Luncheons in Auckland and Wellington, says if New Zealand is to generate more wealth without creating further impact on the land and the environment, a path we should consider carving out is “high technology”.