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Sounding board: Peer advice from the CIO Executive Council

Sounding board: Peer advice from the CIO Executive Council

What is the best piece of advice you have received in your career?

Don’t forget about staff at the coalface

Paul Fitzpatrick, IT Director, LandMark White Group

One piece of advice that comes to mind is that IT provides a service to all staff. They, as in all staff, are effectively clients, so you need to take care of them as much as possible.

Photo of Paul Fitzpatrick

This advice has been reiterated to me by different companies and peers and I personally believe it applies to a number of aspects within the role of the CIO. IT provides support, advice, leadership and innovation enablement; getting those pillars correct, functional and exceeding expectations are grounds to help transform an IT department from just being a normal, functional resource into more of a transformational department.

But to get there you cannot neglect staff — you have to get their buy-in, you have to actually do the hard yards and work with them so they feel loved. At the same time, when you’re communicating and talking to them about different IT services, you need to clearly map the service to how they’re going to receive a benefit. It’s one thing being asked for advice, or you as an IT team delivering an application that’s innovative, but if it can’t be directly mapped to what the staff members do in their day-to-day environment, a lot of staff are just going to reject it in general. If you just talk shop or throw around technical terms, it will be glossed over, not adopted, and you won’t receive help to refine it, change it and help it become a part of the employees’ day-to-day toolset.

This advice has become more important to me over time. Directors and executives can potentially fall into the trap of getting to the executive level and forgetting about the clients — their staff. These executives focus on the strategy, on delivering different outcomes, but at the end of the day the staff need to use the technology to drive the business. They’re the ones that get the revenue in the door.

The valuers at LMW Group perform the marketing so it’s about making sure that we don’t forget about them and that we keep them up to date and on top of everything.

Ultimately, the CIO must sit down with the staff at the coalface and go through their expectations, their thoughts and their opinions on how something should be done or improved.

What they want and what an executive wants, most of the time, tend to be completely different. That’s an area where IT leaders have a constant challenge; you need to be able to find the balance between both executives and other staff and be able to deliver on both sides of the fence. It means that occasionally a request or feature has to be rejected because sometimes it just doesn’t make sense, it doesn’t help the strategic plan of the business.

Learning the business and understanding the business now and across the next couple of years is vital when sitting down with an executive or a person at the coalface. If they ask you to make a change or develop a new process, whatever it is, you can immediately ask, “This is where we’re going as a business, how does your request marry up with that?” You can workshop it, work through it and come to a mutual agreement and understanding without worrying about staff breaking suit. The main thing is not to forget staff at the end of the day.

They do all the work; we provide services and support for these staff. If we don’t get those things right, it will come back and haunt us further down the track.

If you can achieve all those things and have good strong pillars underneath you, you can move into that transformational IT phase. But if you’ve forgotten the clients along the way, you have got a huge mountain to climb. You just won’t get anywhere from a transformational point of view.

Next: Andrew Mitchell, CIO, Gilbert + Tobin talks innovation.

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Tags Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA)Gilbert TobinAndrew MitchellCarsten LarsenPaul FitzpatrickLandMark White Group

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