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CIO Summit 2012: How CIOs can get on the board

CIO Summit 2012: How CIOs can get on the board

Communicate in the language of customer retention and risk, not IT, to get the board's attention urges business expert

Grant Thornton Australia operational advisory partner, Rory Gregg.

Grant Thornton Australia operational advisory partner, Rory Gregg.

Chief information officers make up less than 1 per cent of representation on the top 50 ASX-listed company boards in Australia and this can only be changed if CIOs start speaking the language of the board, according to a business advisory expert.

Speaking at the CIO Summit 2012 in Sydney, Grant Thornton Australia operational advisory partner, Rory Gregg, told delegates that according to research conducted by the firm, out of the 400 board members who sit on the top 50 boards in Australia, only four had a technology background.

“It seems to be that the focus around the work the CIO and technology plays in an organisation is not valued or CIOs are not doing enough to push for a seat at the board in some of these top 50 organisations,” he said.

According to Gregg, part of the problem is that, in general, chief executives don’t care very much about technology.

“They do care when their iPad is not working or when they have a customer calling who can’t access some of the services,” he said.

Gregg than provided some tips for CIOs to help gain a seat on the board.

Communication

“The board is looking for [IT] people that they can communicate with and who can talk in their language,” he said.

According to Gregg, the language of board members is tactical aspects of how the business is operating such as customer retention, risk, compliance and profitability.

“Their language is not focused on bring your own devices [BYOD] or Cloud computing,” Gregg said.

Industry expertise

CIOs also needed a business understanding of the industry they were working in such as retail or manufacturing.

“Do you know how the businesses you support, such as manufacturing, make money?” he said.

Gregg suggested that CIOs break out of the IT department and look at what the rest of the company was doing to make a profit and retain customers.

Strategy

“Not surprisingly, strategy is a key focus for the CEO; it’s around efficiency, customer focus and in some cases survival,” he said.

“CIOs need to be able to adapt to those kinds of changes so the challenge is to build an organisation that is aligned to that strategy. That’s around building a structure that is agile and flexible to respond to the needs of change.”

Team structure

In addition, Gregg suggested that CIOs start to recruit a few people who did not have a computer science major.

“Not everybody in the team needs to have a technology background. I encourage you to recruit some people from a business background who can understand how the business and technology overlay,” he said.

Follow Hamish Barwick on Twitter: @HamishBarwick

Follow CIO Australia on Twitter: @CIO_Australia

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