Managing IT often seems like managing the affairs of a rock band, with its curious mix of creative talent, volatile personalities, and lots of gear.
Stories by Divina Paredes
Management by walking around (MBWA) is a big part of Mainfreight, and critical in the success of the ICT team, declares Kevin Drinkwater, chief information officer of the supply chain logistics provider.
“One of our great philosophies is to visit our branches to gain an understanding of the business at the branch and finding out the issues that our team members have. So we watch what they are doing and ask them whether the systems do what they need. It has been amazing the improvements we have managed to create out of team members’ problems.
For three years, Simon Conroy’s career straddled the worlds of business and rock and roll.
Conroy, chief information officer of Flight Centre, was project manager at Freedom Air when he joined the rock band Redline as its bass guitarist.
Around the table
Kevin Ackhurst, managing director, Microsoft NZ
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”.