Ten years, 10 IT directors, 10 divergent paths.
Stories by Divina Paredes
On the panel:
Tim Sheedy, Senior analyst, IT and information management, Forrester
Last year a string of kidnap incidents rocked the Auckland division of an ICT company. The incidents were never reported in the mainstream media. The victims: Potted sunflower plants.
Steven Graham, Auckland general manager of Fronde Synergy, says the staff were given sunflower seeds and were told the person who grew the tallest plant would get a prize.
View from the top
Lt Col Karyn Te Moana, staff officer command and control, communications, computers and electronic warfare capability management team, NZ Army
Two years ago when Carol Abernethy joined the Ministry of Justice as general manager technology and services, she discovered a significant advantage in working for the public sector.
Public sector executives, she says, have this fantastic opportunity to confer with their peers in other agencies about the projects they are working on and learn from each other’s experiences.
Brent Powell says there is a lot of discussion of what makes a great leader in books (“theoretical perfection” he terms it), but you can only choose your leadership style “after having the practical experience and seeing those skills in action and applying them”.
That has certainly been the case for Powell, general manager business systems at Fletcher Distribution, who says he had the good fortune to enjoy the “luxury” of working with business leaders who served as vital role models on handling people and change management issues.
For Ron van de Riet, there is a world of difference between being a manager, and a manager-slash-leader.
“Management to me is just dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s. Leadership is totally different but you have to be both,” says the general manager, IT and business delivery, at Kiwibank.
Lieutenant Colonel Karyn Te Moana reckons her most dangerous assignment was in East Timor. In 1999, Lt Col Te Moana, who now heads the communications, computers and electronic warfare capability management team of the NZ Army, was in the first landing of Kiwi troops in Dili.
They were surrounded by burning buildings, the militia were still firing, and the residents were hiding in the hills. “We really did rely on each other to watch each other’s back,” she says. “We worked very long hours trying to set up places to live, secure the environment for the local people to come back down and start their lives again, [and] set up the communications system.”
Setting the framework
Carol Abernethy, Ministry of Justice: Early July last year, we released the strategic plan for the combined agencies?–?the old Ministry of Justice and the old Department for Courts. It was excellent timing for us to kick off the development of our Information Systems Strategic Plan (ISSP) that would be a significant enabler to being able to achieve the vision articulated within the Strategic Plan.
Several weeks ago, while working on MIS Magazine, I was sidetracked by an incident?–?a major business event, actually. Our publisher Fairfax Business Media acquired the licence to publish our competitor in the IT management magazine space –?and merged the two publications.
It would have been tempting?–?and an easy route?–?for the magazine to just slap the CIO masthead on the cover, and inside, simply retain what MIS is known for?–?real life experiences of local IS leaders, buttressed with honest insights from peers, other business executives and analysts from New Zealand and overseas.
The minister wants to respond to a new political or government announcement; the CEO, the latest development in the marketplace. The employees want systems up and running; the customers want ease of access; the suppliers need to be connected online. On top of this, your department is becoming responsible for more and more projects.
“There are not many places that have to have their systems available 24 x 7, 365 days a year. A large component of our strategy is keeping that system going.”
This is how Lyn Provost describes the distinct challenges of IS management at the New Zealand Police.
…Every dollar I invest has to give me a return, otherwise, why should I do it? Why would I do it?
…Our systems are leading edge, not bleeding edge… We will not take up the latest version as it may have more holes in it than Swiss cheese [laughter from audience].