Changing role of the CIO
Dalton and Wenn said that as a result of change in the way their organisations go about IT service delivery, their roles as CIO were also changing away from just managing IT infrastructure, applications and IT service delivery.
REA and Tabcorp have businesses that are totally dependent on technology, so the CIO now plays a more collaborative role with other senior executives with significant input to strategic direction, customer service and revenue development.
“By title, I am the CIO but in effect that is only 25 per cent of my job these days,” REA’s Dalton said. “We decided at REA that we had had enough of functional leaders in defined areas such as IT, products, HR, marketing, sales and finance etc.
“We no longer live in departmental silos with C-level executives polishing their own functional organisation to within an inch of its life and then throwing stuff over the fence to another group.
“Our IT group made a massive transformation in its ability to get things done and to deliver. This Agile philosophy is now being applied right across the business.”
Wenn said that Tabcorp is making significant progress in its transition to an Agile environment and this is changing her role “almost daily”.
“I am spending a lot more of my time now working with marketing officers and distribution and solving real business problems because in some respects the technology now takes care of itself,” Wenn said.
“The more interesting and compelling thing is to work with marketing on content management. My role is changing all the time and that is challenging for some of the management levels below in technology groups.
“It is a challenge for all ITSM practitioners to find their role in the transition to a more customer-centric technology operation that works collaboratively with the business. At the end of the day, you can resist it but that the way the industry is evolving means that to do so will most likely end up in an exit interview.
“Alternatively, you can embrace it and be part of the future. One of my major roles as CIO is to drive this change so that IT better serves the business and so that IT works in close consultation with the business.”
New recruiting models
The changing roles and responsibilities within ITSM operations also require a rethink about which sort of people are on the recruitment radar, according to Dalton and Wenn.
There are different triggers that recruiters have to look for when hiring people into the new, more Agile roles as opposed to the traditional process-driven service delivery models defined by ITIL.
“I have changed my recruitment criteria substantially over the years,” Wenn said. “I think we used to recruit people with strong technical skills whereas, now, my view now is that these are easily taught and easily learnt. It doesn’t matter what systems and applications you work on, you can learn it.
“I now look for leadership and people skills because I find that those sorts of qualities are innate and a lot harder to teach. I am looking for candidates that can collaborate and get on with people through recognising their strengths.
“There are a couple of tricks we use in terms of recruiting in the Agile space. We are interested in whether they blog and/or whether they actually contribute to open source forums or other industry communities. This allows us to determine whether they have a passion for what they do. We need energy and motivational levels. We can teach you all the other stuff.”
REA’s Dalton said that “it is not easy to get a job at our place” and that he relies on a system where often a candidate’s future colleagues assess whether there is a cultural fit with the team.
“All new recruits have come through a couple of interviews before they get a job,” Dalton said. “After a couple of conversations we are going to find out quite definitively if they are the kind of person we want on the team and whether they can work with the way we do things.
“People can transition from very traditional environments to our environment so long as they have high communication skills obviously. I guess we are an introverted culture so we do tend to recruit our own type to some extent but we also look for diversity of age and gender because we know that we get some resilience from that.
“Leveraging multiple opinions is one of the Agile fundamentals so we encourage that through diversity of recruits.”
If you thought that the rapid pace of change is unsustainable and that things are likely to slow down, Dalton and Wenn advise that you shouldn’t hold your breath.
“Unfortunately, the bad news is that however fast you are working now, how rapidly you have to deliver new products to customers is actually the slowest it will be for the rest of your lives,” Dalton said. “So enjoy it because it is only going to accelerate from here.
“Using new techniques, philosophies and principles such as DevOps and Agile provides a better way of coping with that but it is not going to slow things down.
“If you look at the way technology-based businesses such as Tabcorp and REA have expanded through acquisition and rolled it all into existing operations so quickly, you would have thought it impossible 20 years ago due to the complexity of it all but that is just the way you have to do it in the digital age.
“We need new tools and guidelines on the best way to do this while maintaining some sort of control over service delivery. Being lean and collaborative is the only way to do it but that too is likely to change over time.”
Wenn said that with new, aggressive competition always emerging to challenge the establishment, Tabcorp has had to embrace an unprecedented of rate of change.
“Everybody would be totally exhausted if we didn’t reassess our philosophy and approach to change,” Wenn said. “The change is about education and working with the business because IT is no longer the bunch of geeks in the corner.
“They are out of the back room and they are absolutely an integral part of the business.
Conversely, it is now an important part of my job to educate a lot of the IT group – and we have 400 of them – that it is OK for marketing to manage content and it is OK for distribution to change things.
“We’ve just got to make sure that we can do it in a way that supports the customer and we have to do it as quickly as possible so that we can move onto the next change.”
Gerard Norsa is publications editor at itSMF Australia. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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