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Australia's longest-serving CIOs on the changing role and staying engaged

George Nott | July 11, 2017
Though five years is a typical tenure, a select few have held the same position for a decade or more. Here's what they had to say.

time on a watch

The majority of CIOs (58 per cent) expect to be in their current role for five years, according to a recent Harvey Nash/KPMG survey

But there are some IT chiefs in Australia pushing their tenure way beyond the typical, holding the same role for a decade or more.

CIO Australia speaks to three such CIOs on what keeps them at their companies, how the role has changed and why sticking at it reaps big benefits.

 

Changing status

Deloitte Australia CIO Tim Fleming joined the accounting and consultancy giant in 1999.

"I imagined a five year gig, and here we are 18 years later," he said. During that time, the role has changed considerably, Fleming explains.

"Today my team is much more directly involved in revenue-earning activities. When I started at Deloitte 18 years ago, IT was very much in the 'keeping lights on' business only. Whereas today we are central to the delivery of many new services that are revenue-earning in their own right," he said.

"My team is much more front and centre due to the strong skillsets in capabilities we have developed that our business units need. To this end we are even more relevant today than we were to the business. And as the team's role has changed, so has mine."

The changing status of the IT chief was echoed by Therese Chakour-West, information technology manager (the company's most senior IT role) at the Australian division of power tool manufacturer Stihl.

"The role has changed significantly from one of compliance to one of true leadership, driving change and adding real value to the business," said Chakour-West, who has held her role for 11 years.

Andrew Alpe, CIO at aged care provider the Royal Freemasons' Benevolent Institution (RFBI), agrees.

Alpe first joined the organisation to assist with the implementation of a finance system. He was soon appointed to the CIO role, the company's first, in 2006.

"When I started it was a bit of fire-fighting, but now it's really setting the direction and making sure were staying on course," he said.

"Strategy obviously plays a huge part in it and, being a member of the executive team, I have to have a view across not just IT but what the whole company is doing and try to translate that into those business needs across the IT platforms we use. It's a very strategic role now."'

 

Constantly challenged

Despite holding on to the same job title, the changing nature of the work involved kept the long-serving CIOs challenged and interested.

Before I started at Deloitte I had worked at around 10 other organisations and could not imagine spending this amount of time in one place," said Fleming. "But Deloitte today is not the same organisation I joined. My job is certainly not the job I originally signed up for. This continual change and challenge keeps the job fresh for me and me fresh for it. I certainly could not imagine myself spending this amount of time in a static role or organisation."

 

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