CIOs reveal strategies for tackling complexity

Twenty centuries of change expected in the next century, says Special Olympics CIO

The “law of accelerating returns” means being a CIO today will not be a cushy job.

“In the next century, we are expecting the equivalent of 20 centuries of change,” says Andre Mendes, CIO of the Special Olympics. “You have to be prepared for it.”

Mendes was among the speakers in the CIO Conference 2008 who discussed ways to meet these challenges head on.

Ron van de Riet, IT and business delivery general manager for Kiwibank, says the biggest challenge has been managing a fast-growth, fast-change environment.

According to van de Riet, innovation was what made Kiwibank successful. “If you don’t have innovation constantly happening in your company, you’ll never be that successful.”

Delivering world-class business architecture was part of the goal. “Why are we so agile and quick now? We bought a legacy model back in 2003 and decided to build a disruptive model. What we decided to do was own everything from the customer to the developer, with everything from the CRM to the customer development done in-house. If we hadn’t done that we would never get the value proposition today due to the cost.”

Laurence Millar, New Zealand government CIO, says governments have to re-think their information management and service delivery systems as the internet becomes increasingly pervasive with citizens, so as to create value for them.

“Data in the hands of few makes for order; but data in the hands of many makes for endless possibilities,” says Millar.

By following the maxim “capture once, use often”, Millar believes government services could be delivered much more effectively.

The NZ government is looking at economic value creation by making its data freely available to everyone. Millar mentions the Google Maps mash-up used for the government’s National Broadband Map as an example. By allowing users and providers to enter demand points and networks that may be able to service these, value is created as customers become aware of suppliers and vice versa.

Voters can also get a better idea what their elected members in Parliament do with public information mash-up sites like theyworkforyou.co.nz that present politicians’ relationships to bills, portfolios, organisations, debates and more.

Sites like the above represent the sea-change that governments face currently, one that they have to embrace in order to meet their citizens’ expectations of being an efficient service provider that builds value, in order to justify their expenditure.

Lion Nathan CIO Darryl Warren knows unified communications or UC technologies are the subject of a certain amount of hype, but he says businesses just need to get on with it.

“The benefits increase as the deployment increases. You have to get rid of your old system; you have to commit and get on with it,” says Warren.

Lion Nathan has done just that. With 3,000 staff across several countries, 13 breweries, 10 wineries and a network of retail stores; reliable, accurate and efficient communication systems are obviously business critical. Up to 600 people use Active Sync with mobile devices or Blackberries; a further 120 sales representatives have Tablet PCs and 3G mobile data cards, and around 1,000 people are not sitting at a given place at any point of the day, but are traveling or on customer visits.

“The organisation has expectations [of IT]. One is that IT infrastructure will be built for the future and stay ahead of the business. It’s a dynamic business and there’s a desire to enact change rapidly. One example is our acquisition of Boag’s in January — 10 weeks later we had full systems and people integration including phone systems,” says Warren.

“Where do you start? First you have to understand the business case. In the corporate world, people have zero tolerance; they expect dial tone. And Generation Y is used to people just ‘being there’ as a constant presence due to [their use of] MMS, SMS, Facebook, Skype and online networking… there is an etiquette to these things, but if people are available, they chat. I can now sit at my desk and see the presence of anyone else on [the system.] Our telephone tag has reduced enormously,” says Warren.

Matthew Massoud Nasrabadi heads Vodafone Australia’s Asia Pacific Network and Services department within the Global Steering Group and his organisation was one of the first implement an ITIL 3.0 service catalogue.

IT must be very clear-cut and able to articulate with just a few sentences its contribution to the business bottom-line. If it can’t do that, says Nasrabadi, it probably hasn’t got it right. To do this successfully, Nasrabadi says, a Service Catalogue is required.

The one sentence-definition of a service catalogue is that it focuses specifically on documenting and articulating IT services provided to an organisation, says Nasrabadi. The goal is to ensure transparency of IT services to business, by identifying value-adding process and infrastructure couple with the centralisation of key IT management knowledge.

Getting budgets through a management is a challenge John Dunn, CIO of Hi Fert, relishes. Dunn realised that talking business and not bytes was required if he was to get anywhere. Also, he needed to set his thinking in coordination and management of his budget.

In other words, avoid IT techno-babble if you don’t want your IT budgets to get scraped, says Dunn.

“Any IT decision made without a business view is prone to scrutiny, resistance and interrogation,” he says.

This year, by intimate consultation with the business, understanding Hi Fert’s needs and drivers, IT issues are now managed through BMC Service Desk Express and there’s a single operational level agreement within the business for resolution. Hi Fert’s standard operating environment today has minimal components as opposed the over 200 before, and its fixed-line telephony that was broken has been replaced by a VoIP solution.

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