With just over a decade of experience in the CIO role, Chris Skorsis has seen it change and evolve over the years into a business leadership role. However, he says for CIOs to perform just as well with the business side of things as they do with technology, they need to start equipping themselves with a business education.
Skorsis spoke to CIO Australia about how his business degree helped him step up into a leadership role, the importance of maintaining strong business relationships and phase two of a Wi-Fi infrastructure project at Moonee Valley Racing Club (MVRC).
What is your background and how did you get to where you are today?
I worked within the Victorian racing industry for over 34 years. I started my career at the Victorian Racing Club and moved across to Racing Victoria Limited when it was established in 1994 as the governing body for administering thoroughbred racing in Victoria.
I started back in 1977 within the IT department and worked my way up. I started off in a software development role as an applications analyst. I hold degrees in computer science and a Master’s in business. I worked my way up through the ranks to the role of CIO around the year 2000.
I joined Triforce Australia in July 2011 as a part-time consultant in a business development role, but was only recently appointed to the role of Victorian state manager due to its rapid expansion.
The Triforce philosophy is built on developing long-term business partnerships, we try to understand their business issues and work collaboratively with the customer to solve them. I’m currently working with Moonee Valley Racing Club as its de facto CIO to manage a Wi-Fi infrastructure project.
How has a business degree helped you in your leadership role?
It’s invaluable in terms of the role of the future CIO. Understanding the whole business aspect and the strategy required in managing an enterprise IT function is invaluable. Without it I don’t think I could have done as well in my CIO role at Racing Victoria Limited and in my current role at Triforce. As a future CIO, you need to have the depth and breadth of understanding, not just of the technology, but even more importantly, the business side of the company.
My Master's is very important and it gave me a whole new perspective in understanding business and then driving business initiatives from the bottom up. Rather than waiting for the business to come to me, I would drive initiatives from IT upwards. Being able to develop the business within Triforce and grow it commercially in Victoria is something that my Master’s degree is helping me to achieve.
I think a Master’s degree in terms of qualifications is paramount for the future CIO. I also think being part of the senior management team is essential to continue to stay relevant within an enterprise.
The MBA can take a CIO to a completely different level. It’s becoming essential for the role, without question. I think it’s certainly moving that way. I would hate to think that there are CIOs out there that don’t have a post-graduate qualification of some type because they would not be serving justice to the role if they don’t understand the business and strategy elements of the role.
When you are sitting at an executive table and talking business strategies, you’ve really got to understand what the discussion is about, you have got to be able to contribute to the discussion intelligently and not always bring the discussion down to the technology level.
The ‘how’ could be the IT, but it’s not so much the how — it’s more about the ‘what’. It’s not just having a representation on the executive table, but also being able to contribute and add value.
What projects are you working on where you are helping to drive the business?
Triforce is currently involved in a number of large and small projects with customers such as redeveloping a website for Swinburne University, working with Mercedes-Benz on a separate data hosting project. Confidentiality prevents me from discussing any of the details of these projects.
Suffice to say that we are doing some really innovative stuff with some of our customers around wireless communications, big data, mobility, e-commerce and storage solutions. All these initiatives are driven from a real business need that will provide our customers with competitive advantages across all areas of their business operations — revenue growth, operational efficiencies and increased productivity.
We are working with Moonee Valley Racing Club on a phase two of our wireless infrastructure project. I certainly think phase two will be expanding on the Wi-Fi geographic locations within the race course.
There will be more integration with a lot of the backend systems around finance, point of sale and electronic wallets. So as soon as you walk onto the race course you don’t have to have cash to actually transact with any of the point of sale areas. It’s going to be over a period of time but our focus is getting the right infrastructure and then we can start adding all those application services on top of all that.
How important is it to maintain strong business relationships and with other C-level executives?
During my time as the CIO of Racing Victoria Limited I developed strong relationships with all the C-level management across all the stakeholders I was looking after, which included Moonee Valley Racing Club.
After I left Racing Victoria the organisation decided to break up the IT shared services model. The likes of the Moonee Valley Racing Club were left to fend for themselves. Because of the strong relationship that I had developed with the Moonee Valley Racing Club CEO in my previous role at RVL, I was able to negotiate an outsource partnership with Triforce so the transition to a stand-alone model was relatively smooth with no interruption to the day-to-day IT operation of the business.
I have been able to maintain that relationship with MVRC since joining Triforce. In some ways I am seen as their de facto CIO; they leverage my knowledge and experience to assist with their IT strategy and development.
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