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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?

Innovative solutions save time

Andrew Mitchell, CIO, Gilbert + Tobin

Listening to your customer is probably one of the best pieces of advice I’ve received. IT is basically in a customer service-type of business and at the end of the day that’s what you have to satisfy.

You’re dealing with problems every single day and you have got to love dealing with those.

I think the advice really came from my very early days, when I first came out of university. My first two bosses were great at listening to staff, and they took me along with them everywhere as part of my grooming process. If they were off meeting a manager, talking about solving a problem or potentially working a on brand new big-scale project, they would drag me along with them. I became their shadow. That taught me the importance of listening to my clients, not only within the company but, for Gilbert + Tobin, the firm’s clients as well.

Photo of Andrew Mitchell from Gilbert and Tobin

Clients are ultimately where the CIO’s demands come from. We can come up with our own ideas but at the end of the day, it might not be what the staff or executives really want. Any innovative idea is not innovative if they’re not going to use it. Listening and understanding to one’s customers is paramount to making the simplest of ideas work, because it’s got to add value to staff and ultimately to the firm as a whole. For us as a law firm, it’s about where can we add value to save the time of the lawyer in their day-to-day tasks. We’re looking at all different types of innovative solutions and tools to try and assist with that every minute of the day. That includes simple things like staff walking over to a printer and waiting for a page — that’s wasted time — to the bigger business deals and the ways in which IT can help those go through.

It’s just as important for external clients too — they have got a separate set of issues to deal with altogether so it’s about understanding their problems. I’ve had one of my analysts actually spend a day a week at a particular client site helping them out with one of their applications. In this case the client did not have the in-house expertise to support the application and we were able to offer this as an a value-added service. If little things help our firm retain or gain a client, our IT team is ready to serve.

You’re in the customer service game, so we’re there to help no matter what that means.

The CIO is busy of course — you have got extremely urgent operations, things that must get done quickly, and then you have customers banging on your door saying, “hey I need this and I need it now.” It can obviously be a strain but I don’t see listening to staff as an obstacle; it’s more being able to manage all those resources and expectations, and managing how IT is implemented. Working closely with staff is important to making sure projects are carried out smoothly and efficiently, and that systems and processes are ultimately used.

It’s ultimately about getting IT more embedded and ingrained in the business, closer to business priorities, which I think is a standard problem for all IT leaders.

Next: Carsten Larsen, CIO, Australian Communications and Media Authority talks about perception and reality.

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

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