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Future-proof your IT team

Future-proof your IT team

Peer advice from the CIO Executive Council

CSC CIO, Ben Patey

CSC CIO, Ben Patey

Chris Clark, CIO, Brookfield Multiplex Promote information technology within the business

The old format of an IT department has passed. Now, the business structure is the key to success. Some of the things that we have changed to futureproof our team include the addition of a business manager, a procurement co-ordinator and contracts manager to manage the back office process of finance, procurement, software and hardware management, as well as having somebody in charge of selective sourcing contracts.

Cloud is just selective sourcing, and to keep the team to a cost effective size, you will buy these services in. The management of the contracts is critical. Away from the back office functions, we’ve brought in a training and communications manager. It’s about marketing IT, and at the end of the day you have to look at how your communications are working, how well people can find IT information, and the use of tools like newsletters to get the word out.

The marketing of IT is not just what you send out to staff in a newsletter or e-mail; it is the exposure of information to enable users to perform, backed by some business exposure to ensure staff understand the business as well as having the business understand the roles of staff members.

Staff need to feel part of the business in terms of how they contribute to the business outcomes. Marketing is key, as is having client service managers.

We also look at role structures and creating diverse roles to ensure new opportunities. We seek to start people on the service desk, eventually moving to being an architect, business analyst, or project manager if that’s what they’re interested in. Despite this, employees from Generation-Y tend to want to progress quickly through the ranks, not realising skills are gained from time and experience.

At the moment there is a very strong market in IT, and some companies are offering great rewards to hire people, hence some are playing a snakes and ladders game with their careers. Currently we’re working with the business on roles and responsibilities for information technology and defining these new roles for the future.

What stands out now is the need for people that are willing to look at the processes as per any business division; hence we encourage ITIL certification.

Matched with this is a clear service catalogue of offerings with the processes to deliver these effectively with service level agreements. As a team, we undertake projects to build the business, and we look at what things will be beneficial.

In the infrastructure area of the team we are a Microsoft shop, so we would look for somebody with qualifications in this area; it shows they are able to stretch themselves. It depends on the role but attitude is very important.

We also run performance agreements in-house aimed at stretching people beyond the daily role, to not only make their role more interesting but to better the team outcomes, ultimately improving the business. We no longer look for just a traditional degree — we look for drive, passion and the will to succeed as part of a team.

George Lymbers, CIO, Anglican Church and Sydney Diocesan Secretariat Take stock and help your employees to grow

One of the biggest challenges of future-proofing is working out when to slow down, take stock of the organisation’s technology direction and redefine the strategy. The best time for an organisation like ours is at the point in the lifecycle of IT and business growth periods and subsequent contraction periods, using the time to rethink and rebuild.

Work out when to transition from growth to maintenance; the normal business cycle will determine this. Then work with the organisation to redevelop the business plan and help drive the executive team forward. If you don’t do this, the business will drive you backwards.

For technology, regularly updating the business strategy is critical to survival, but how do you bring your people with you? First off, you include them. You talk to your stakeholders and customers. Once settled, take a look at the current skills of your employees, consider what those skills will look like few years down the track and build those skills accordingly.

It helps keep staff interested and on the ball. If there are no big projects happening, it isn’t going to be as ‘sexy’ for the IT team compared to implementing big change programs or new infrastructure. I take the opportunity to look at employees and their personal growth in between projects, as well looking at whether or not we have the right people on board.

I take stock of where the business is heading and subsequently where technology should head, review projects and programs and make any hard decisions needed, doing this quickly in order to honour the staff involved. Part of this review process is a performance appraisal system based on detailed job descriptions and SLAs that flow through to individual work and training plans.

Out of those, I develop daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly or yearly goals that flow to individual staff. Some staff automatically pick up the ‘goal’ and run with it while others learn on the job.

Future-proofing staff and keeping the intellectual property in which you have heavily invested is a management art not a technology skill; keeping them keen by not decreasing the pressure on staff “delivery” in times of contraction, and keeping them sharp when the growth times return is the real skill.

I am not so fussed on staff with a multitude of degrees. It is more important to provide levels of growth for staff; otherwise you risk creating a very expensive revolving door in the technology organisation.

At the entry level, I look for Microsoft, Cisco or Juniper certifications. In systems managers and business managers, I’m looking for more of a business focus and expect an IT degree. But I’m also interested in a business background or a history in accounting, as well as a deep interest and love of technology and serving the customer.

Ben Patey, CIO, CSC Identify operational gaps and give people a voice

Foundation roles are important because they allow you to do all the interesting projects. They centre around the operational and service delivery aspects as well as project management. If you want to go out and play, you have to keep your room tidy; the operational and service delivery management roles have to be ‘tidy’ and done well.

Standard IT services need to be run as the customer would expect. If they are not, we will be judged accordingly.

The other piece that has really developed over the past few years is the strengthening of the project management function. The focus is not necessarily on the execution of a project, but the top and tail of projects — from the business case to benefits realisation. We continually validate the investment and that helps us make decisions on what to do next.

Three years ago we brought on a ‘four Cs’ manager, and the reason I call him this is because I can’t think of a better name! He looks after the customer experience, communications, collaboration and the management of the impact of change on customers.

Globally, we have rolled out a ‘Facebook for the enterprise’ style solution that we call C3. We have more than 85,000 people out of 95,000 staff members using it, all within three years. The take-up and integration of C3 within Australia is handled by my four Cs manager. It’s interesting because we have a lot of vocal Gen-Ys on C3 but we also have very active contributors from the baby boomers. So C3 gives all staff a platform for communication.

The other C is ‘change’, and that’s really around our ability to engage the customer appropriately when change happens. He uses a particular methodology called AIM, short for ‘accelerated implementation methodology’.

AIM focuses on stakeholder engagement, careful planning and preparation to lay groundwork for a successful implementation. I focus on cultural fit when interviewing candidates. They must have a good fit with the company and the team.

Disposition and attitude are essential to the success of a high performing team. The CIO office for me is about joining the dots between the business and technology. I don’t just want ‘tech heads’ in my team. I want people with a business focus.

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Tags careersmanagementCIO Executive Councilcareer advicecscBrookfield MultiplexBen PateyChris ClarkGeorge LymbersfutureproofAnglican Church and Sydney Diocesan Secretariat

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