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A techie's journey from the back room to the boardroom

A techie's journey from the back room to the boardroom

Technologists need to become salesmen

To make the journey from the back room to the boardroom, Commonwealth Bank CEO Ralph Norris yesterday said he had to become a salesman, one that not only sold the benefits of technology but enabled successful implementations.

Norris said he was an unusual salesman, because "I also had to make it work."

"It wasn't just selling it, it was also working out how to actually implement the technology," he added.

For IT systems to deliver Norris said organizations have to take an architectural approach.

"I think all of us have been exposed to IT systems that failed to deliver; certainly the organization Im with today had some experience of that in the past," he said.

"In too many situations we see a rush to actually build something, rather than actually getting the basics right. I think the industry today is much stronger in that regard than it was 10, 15 and certainly 20 years ago."

Norris joined the Commonwealth Bank as CEO in September 2005 after a long career as a CIO across a number of industries.

With his experience in banking, Norris focused on many of the IT challenges that have dogged the financial services sector.

Norris said banking systems have been built on the Tower of Babel principle rather than an architectural approach.

He said it is about keeping it simple because complexity creates errors.

"Complexity is the enemy of mission critical systems," Norris said.

Referring to the Commonwealth Bank's new front end platform, CommSee, Norris said it is a huge system that was developed by some 1,000 people working together over a two and a half year time-frame.

"It has delivered what it promised, ahead of time, and within budget," he said.

"When I look at how that happened, it happened because there was a very strong architectural approach taken. It was having a clear understanding of what the end objective was going to be, how it would be built and structured.

"People understood the basics before they actually started to turn the ideas into code."

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