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Too Many Chiefs?

Too Many Chiefs?

CIOs in many larger enterprises are finding several people are now involved in fulfilling the many roles and tasks that once were assigned purely to the CIO

ING Group comprises a number of companies in Australia, including the banking operation ING Bank where Brian Parker is head of technology, and ING Australia, formerly Mercantile Mutual, where Chris Smith is CIO. The two peers work together to a small degree, but they each run their own IT operations and the businesses are quite separate.

Three other arms of the group have their own IT infrastructure and IT organisations. Each business has different structures. Within ING Bank there's a security manager function whose role embraces premise, document and IT systems security. There's a similar role within ING Australia.

The two roles are quite independent and business-focused. In contrast, a privacy committee operates across all of the businesses, Parker says.

"This is due to the changes in the legislation that are occurring later this year. We are making sure we have a common response to the legislation, but it will be implemented within each business unit quite separately. I think the more heads we get around these problems the better. It's certainly to my advantage to have someone who focuses on security or privacy issues and then feeds me a subset of the information that's relevant to the technology."

Parker says ultimately the executive management committee makes all the decisions of the bank. Any conflicts are discussed at executive level and resolved at that point.

Since being appointed to the post of Defence Department IS Division head two years ago, Patrick Hannan has been sparring with the powers-that-be over whether his role should be considered equivalent to that of chief information officer.

Hannan has consistently said "no", arguing that, in fact, he has been acting, and should continue to act, as chief technology officer and service provider.

If he is a rower — and he maintains he is — he's been vehemently insisting that now Defence needs a steerer — a CIO — to align IT with the business.

"I had always felt that the department needed a champion who was the business architect, if you like. [Someone] concerned with how the business was operated and then how the business was supported through IT and information management. That is the gap," Hannan says.

"If you listen to anything (Defence Secretary) Allan Hawke or (Defence Force Head Admiral) Chris Barrie or even the new Minister have said over the last year, they have been complaining about the lack of coherence in Defence's information management environment," Hannan says.

"As a service provider of something that could classically be outsourced, is it my role to determine business outcomes for the businesses? No, clearly it's not," he says.

"But who is actually driving Navy, Army and Air Force, the materiel organisation or the logistics or personnel functions to not invest in applications and systems that solely meet their parochial requirements and are actually sub-optimised, so that we can get a better organisational whole?"

Hannan argues that's the job of a yet to be appointed CIO. The department evidently now agrees because at the time of writing Defence was advertising for a CIO to champion the use of information technology as a mission enabler and work with Defence Committee members to build alignment between Defence's military and business objectives and its information strategy.

The CIO will foster approaches to knowledge management and information sharing in order to help Defence better achieve desired outcomes. A key responsibility will be to chair the Defence Information Environment Committee. Hannan, meanwhile, will continue his role of CTO and provider of service delivery to the CIO.

Defence is also taking the trend a step further. For instance, Defence already has a chief knowledge officer, Air Vice Marshal Peter Nicholson. Hannan says he and Nicholson work together extremely well.

"It's Ying and Yang; it's hand in glove. It's an extraordinarily strong and close relationship. I am the technology architect, futures is handled by Peter Nicholson in the capability development world, and we're going to have someone coordinating and working directly to Allan Hawke as CIO," he says.

The CIO will ultimately have authority to tell Hannan to cease and desist if he thinks he is doing something inappropriate for the organisation, just as he will be able to send the same message to others anywhere in the Defence hierarchy.

In the old days IT managers had responsibility for IT and that was it. Now Gartner vice president, executive programs worldwide Marianne Broadbent says there's a trend for some Australian CIOs to stick entirely with strategy and demand, while a CTO or equivalent looks after supply.

CIOs in many larger enterprises, meanwhile, are finding several people are now involved in fulfilling the many roles and tasks that once were assigned purely to the CIO. Broadbent says in some larger organisations CIOs will continue to manage only supply, either because someone else is already handling demand or because the organisation isn't sufficiently mature to have someone effectively handling demand.

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