Whatever the stresses and strains, it seems for most Aussie CIOs working in multinationals, there are largely upsides to their working arrangements. "Countries around the world all have different challenges and the ability to share experiences and resources is a huge benefit," Ernst & Young's Arnold says.
Chen explains that after the merger with Bank One in the US, JPMorgan Chase now has more than 150,000 employees worldwide with up to 10,000 IT professionals. Due to the size of the organization and geographic footprint, the company provides broad career opportunities for staff across the world. "Staff can expand their careers into the business or different technology disciplines, as well as working in different parts of the world, all while staying in the same job," he says.
"As a part of people programs, JPMorgan also encourages staff to take overseas assignments from time to time to broaden their skills and develop their international experience within the organization. Many local technology staff have successfully moved offshore, some of which have taken on bigger responsibilities within the firm. On a personal front, I will be taking on a new regional role. This is a very exciting opportunity for me, managing technology operations for some critical businesses in Asia," Chen says.
Thorpe says one advantage of working in the global environment is the peer sharing, both formal and informal. She can discuss issues she is considering with seven other CIO peers around the world openly and confidentially, and get all the help she needs.
"There really is in that sort of multinational or global environment a lot of sharing and just that private confidentiality which you really appreciate. You don't have that locally. And I guess the other side of it is around the procurement side - when you're dealing with Microsoft or Oracle or the other large vendors at a global level obviously the leverage you've got is significantly greater and we can benefit from that here. When you're doing it on your own you don't have that," she says.
On the downside are what Thorpe calls "the hygiene factors". When she goes to head office meetings everyone else might be able to pop in for an hour, but it can take a week out of her working year by the time she factors in travelling time.
Holling, who has been a CIO for Digital Equipment, Compaq and now HP, admits he does sometimes envy CIOs in Australian-based companies for their ability to work with the business to identify and develop IT strategy. "Then again, you can look at it another way and say, well, actually it's not always a bad thing to have someone else doing all that hard work and making all those decisions," he says.
"I have a very good relationship with my counterparts in India, China and Japan, and as you can imagine there is a diversity of views among the four of us in terms of how we deal with some matters. But we do have a forum going where we discuss these things pretty frankly and openly before we take it to more senior management and put a position forward. I enjoy the cross-cultural dialogue that we have. Certainly people are coming from very different perspectives in some of those discussions, particularly a growth market like China - I mean their challenges are completely different from what we have in Australia where the market is pretty mature.
"I actually think if ever I went into a CIO role for an Australian-based company there is certainly so much that I could take into that role that I would be able to leverage from what corporate HP is doing. There's a lot of intellectual capital there really," Holling says.
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