The days when CIOs could simply say ‘no’ to challenging requests are long gone as they are having to prove their worth to the business more so than ever, according to ex-president of KBR Minerals, Mark Read.
Speaking at the CIO Summit in Sydney, Read reflected on an “ugly” experience he had with the IT department at a previous organisation he declined to name. When he asked an IT staffer if he could transfer data from an old computer to his new one, the IT staffer initially said it could be done, but soon after was rebuked by the CIO.
While Read sat silently by the speaker phone, the CIO told the IT staffer that the job would take hours and suggested that the worker tell Read that it couldn’t be done.
“I didn’t feel appreciated,” said Read. “But of course there are two sides to that. I’m sure the people on the other end of the phone didn’t feel respect and didn’t feel valued.”
Read said it is critical for CIOs to change their role from IT police to IT enabler and business driver in order to build trust with the CEO and earn their place at the table.
At another previous job, as a general manager at Sinclair Knight Merz (SKM), Read said IT became critical to the business’s growth.
After successfully merging the IT backbones of two SKM offices, the IT department became so good at integration that it enabled SKM to quickly acquire a number of other companies both within Australia and abroad, Read said.
“We were able to do M&A better and faster than our competitors because of our IT and information management,” he said.
However, Read said that while CIOs deserve a seat at the top table, they should remember that they are just one of several important executives in the business.
“It’s a special relationship, but there are a number of other special relationships at that top table as well,” he said. “All those people around that table have similar challenges in some shape or form as the CIO.”
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