CIOs must be sure of direction but flexible on getting there

Colm Gartlan, ICS CIO Advisory Board, opens the 2016 leaders conference. (Image: Mediateam)

ICS Leaders Conference hears that successful CIOs wear multiples hats, but relationships are key



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23 September 2016 | 0

The future of work, the role of the CIO, gender imbalance in IT and computer science in education were all key themes of the 2016 ICS Leaders Conference.

The conference was opened by Colm Gartlan, chairperson, ICS CIO advisory board, who enjoined the participants to foster and grow the network, the CIO forum and the community, to make sure there was enough of value to engage them. He said that this, in conjunction with the work of the ICS CIO agenda, were two major planks of development for the near future, both of which would serve the industry well.

What has driven success in the past, said Anne Heraty, CEO, CPL, is not necessarily going to do so in the future, and the CIO is at the forefront of the current disruption, interpreting what can provide an advantage for the business.

But there is a deluge of info, she warned, through various media, that can impact productivity as much as promote it. The right technology empowers and cuts the noise, rather than adds to it.

Future workplace
From this Heraty introduced the idea of the future workplace and the fact that most of the children in school today will go on to jobs which are not yet conceived.

She said that in this context, it is important to understand what clients are going through to be in a better position to support them.

Technology is the profound force that is shaping how we work, she argued, but it is no longer one job function, it is part of everything. Heraty cited Martin Ford, author of “Rise of the Robot”, who said that if any part of a human’s job is routine or repetitive, it can be automated. To that end, there are expectations that up to 40% of jobs today will be automated within 10 years.

This will provide phenomenal freedom, said Heraty, provided you have the skills to remain valuable within the workforce.

Heraty also called on more to be done, and earlier, to address the gender imbalance in IT. She advocated taking the myth out of programming for children in general, but especially girls, to show “how cool” it can be.

She said as early as second year in secondary school was necessary to catch people to ensure that it is in their consciousness. While she had praise for movements such as CoderDojo, more in the realm of computer science as secondary school subject was needed, she argued.

In a later panel, Fiona Taaffe, head of information technology and business improvement, AWAS, gave a frank assessment of programming ability among girls.

“I always think girls make great programmers. If you can knit, follow a pattern, you will make a great programmer,” said Taaffe.

Trusted ally
Lee Weldon, senior vice president, CIO research team, Gartner presented research on how to remain relevant as a CIO.

Weldon said that the company’s annual CIO surveys had been combined to build a picture of certain types of CIOs. Firstly, the at risk CIO is one that is only keeping the lights on, in reactive mode and unable to drive innovation or value to the business, but the trusted partner CIO, which constitutes just 25% overall, is the one that sits at the top table and works closely with the board.

The profile of the trusted ally CIO is one that wears two hats, the functional and the corporate. They bring a unique perspective, while being able to retain a big picture view. They invariably develop strong peer relationships and provide a public face for the enterprise. They are ‘intrapreneurial’, or capable of acting like an entrepreneur within the enterprise. They can speak with a common C-suite voice, while able to lead in the face of uncertainty.

Such individuals spend around 40% of their time on functional leadership, with 60% spent on enterprise leadership, said Weldon.

What differentiates such individuals from their peers is that they are more likely to have bimodal business and IT experience. They are more likely to wear multiple hats, such as digital and innovation leaders or transformers, as well as more likely to work with SMBs and start-ups. They demand more business intelligence and analytics skills and face a higher talent gap than others. They invest more in developing talent, acquiring more young talent too, as well as investing more in personal development.

Weldon said that CIOs must craft and communicate their own unique, personal message. This would allow them to measure and communicate their business impact.

He advised CIOs to invest time and attention in relationships with peers, building powerful triad relationships. These three-person relationships are often better vehicles to achieve real change through influence and support, said Weldon.

CIOs should tap into wider resource pools through influence and orchestration, said Weldon, while adapting leadership styles to handle complexity and uncertainty.

“Be very clear about where you are going, but very flexible about how you get there,” said Weldon.


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