SOME of the world’s leading IT minds have called for business unity following the wrap up of the annual Next Generation CIO Summit at Sheraton Mirage.

The event saw the chief information officers (CIOs) from Australasia’s largest companies converge on the Coast and included panel discussions from the CIOs at Telstra, Foxtel and Shell Australia sharing insights into the rapidly evolving technology landscape.

The focus quickly turned to collaboration and unity, with Shell Australia’s Morgan Hurwtiz saying the modern CIO must be all an all-encompassing manager.

He says Shell traditionally has discarded IT to focus on asset management and innovation around engineering, however the last two years has seen a ‘big improvement’ in integrating technology decisions into every business division.

“It’s an educational process where it’s about saying ‘go off and do what you want to do, but please involve IT’. What we’ve been very successful at recently is putting IT people on each of the leadership teams in all of the businesses,” says Hurwtiz.

“That works very well. First of all you have the IT people understand what all the operating conditions are. They can help around policy and help (other business leaders) have awareness around supportability, interoperability and security aspects.

“But more importantly it allows them to look at the business and think ‘how can we tie IT into a business process,’ or ‘how do we use IT to create a new business strategy’.”

Telstra CIO Patrick Eltridge drew laughter from the audience of technology professionals when highlighting the often confrontation relationship between IT and business operations departments.

But on a serious note, he says modern organisations cannot afford to have poor IT systems and procedures implemented due to a lack of collaboration.

“I take at least 50 per cent responsibility for that (poor IT decisions in other departments), because it’s a failure of the relationship. It’s a failure of collaboration and as CIOs it is our job to drive collaboration and that relationship in the business,” says Eltridge.

“It’s so important to spend time explaining your strategy to your members; it’s a two-way relationship just like a transactional relationship. You need to take the time to paint a very detailed picture of what the company is trying to achieve and what you’re trying to achieve.”

The Telstra technology boss also raised his frustrations with ‘short-term thinking’ businesses who fail to continually rejuvenate their IT assets.

“If you stock up old systems and let it get five or eight years old it becomes a nightmare. It’s enormous sums of money and you might as well be starting from scratch, it’s no longer an upgrade,” says Eltridge.

“It’s such a false economic model, the savings there are completely lost, it raises operational risk and it raises commercial risk.”

With an increasingly transient Gen Y workforce, Foxtel CIO Robyn Elliot highlighted constant re-education of staff on best IT practices is paramount to effective technology management.

“Companies often train staff up on new IT systems and software when the new technology is first implemented, but we’ve got to remember that in five years time many of those employees will have moved on,” she says.

“IT executives need to be actively monitoring this at the ground level. Visit employees and ask them ‘have a look at how we use these systems and tell us if we are actually using them properly’.

“It’s usually a major eye-opener for those companies seeing how some systems and programs have fallen out of use or activity in the workplace has tailored or tweaked the uses that isn’t the optimal way of doing things.”

In a time of continuous technological change there is no doubt that prosperous companies are those that capitalise on technology. Microsoft founder Bill Gates once said that information technology (IT) and business have become ‘inextricably interwoven’.

Get your copy of Gold Coast Business News April edition to read how your company can save IT costs and increase productivity in our special technology feature.

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