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A CIO's Guide to the NBN

A CIO's Guide to the NBN

Australia's $43 billion National Broadband Network will usher in a new era of connectivity and business innovation. Here’s what CIOs need to know. . .

Damien Tampling, the national leader of the Technology, Media and Telecommunications Industry Group at Deloitte, says bandwidth of 100 megabits per second will encourage telcos to become not just retailers of the network, but also developers, managers and marketers of applications on that network. They’ll still make money as network retailers, but their focus will switch.

British Telecom realised that if it couldn’t continue to own the network, then it had to own one or two of the major applications that would drive traffic on the network

Damien Tampling, the national leader of the Technology, Media and Telecommunications Industry Group at Deloitte

“Look at Telstra Media,” he says. “For years it has owned a swag of content rights in Australia for sports. We also know Telstra Business Group has just launched T-suite, its software as a service portal. And Telstra is working on another kind of phone in the home that can act as a centralised device for many applications. This is what will happen. The NBN will drive telcos to think more intensely about the applications they want to own.

“We saw this in the UK with British Telecom. BT realised that if it couldn’t continue to own the network, then it had to own one or two of the major applications that would drive traffic on the network, which is quite intelligent.”

Management and technology consultants BearingPoint Australia say that business needs telcos to offer new services at internationally competitive prices. BearingPoint Australia managing director Matt Goodlet says business wants a viable, innovative telco industry vying for its customers.

“Business should be able to select iPhones from Optus, a VPN from Telstra, Internet from AAPT, VoIP from TransACT, 3G from VHA and video content from iiNet -- or some other combination -- and have them all work seamlessly together,” Goodlet says.

The takeout: telecommunications companies will become media communications companies. Technology will be cloud-centric rather than location centric.

How the NBN will affect the day-to-day operations and career prospects of Australian CIOs

It’s a brave new world -- starting yesterday.

Bhatia says the role of CIO will change from maintainer of services and computer rooms, to being a strategic partner of management in the use of IT.

“[CIOs] will become essential to senior management because they will refresh the business,” he says. “The whole IT pie will grow dramatically and CIOs will become catalysts of change within the company. There will be wonderful opportunities for them to shine but there will be winners and losers. Those who don’t adapt will be eaten by the guys who do -- the ones who are nimble. And adaptation starts now, not in six months.”

Because the NBN has so many technical features, understanding how a business might benefit or be threatened is as much a question of strategy as it is of technology, according to Tampling from Deloitte. So business heads will turn to their CIOs to interpret what the NBN means.

“For the CIO, it’s important they consider the NBN alongside their business strategy and development people; understand what has happened overseas in their industry in places where networks of this nature have been built; make sure they start thinking early; and collaborate with contemporaries.

“For the good CIO who thinks ahead there will be some wonderful opportunities to become the go-to person for boards and CEOs to better explore how they can leverage the NBN. CIOs who don’t think about it early will be on the back foot.” Deloitte conducts an annual board effectiveness study where it interviews board members of top ASX companies. Tampling says this year’s results threw up a curious finding: almost unanimously, boards felt anxious about their companies’ digital strategy -- unsure if it was covered by their strategy person, their marketing person or their CIO.

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