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What's stopping you from achieving real success?

Byron Connolly | Nov. 28, 2012
Bradley Kalgovas, an honours research student at the University of New South Wales (UNSW), spoke to 10 Australians CIOs in various industries, for a research study titled Transcending the barriers to CIO ambidexterity, which identifies what prevents CIOs from exploring and exploiting technology inside their organisations.

CIO: What are the barriers that you discovered that have stopped CIOs from finding and exploiting technology?

Kalgovas: The really big one I found was indirect reporting. CIOs that have never reported to the CEO didn't find indirect reporting a barrier; they didn't see the issue with that. The ones [CIOs] that have reported to the CFO and then reported to the CEO [did see it as a barrier].

That linked in with the recommendation that you are trusted and really not just [a question of] 'have you got a seat on the boardroom table?' [but] you are involved when they are [putting together] a strategy for the organisation. One CIO was talking about cloud computing and said, 'I can talk to the CEO and say look this has legs and this hasn't with cloud computing' as opposed to just being told that you are doing cloud computing.

It changes because IT is part of your strategy and not something you are hearing [about] second hand from the CFO who only cares about costs. So that was a really big barrier that we found.

The risk-averse nature of the business also came up as well as complexity of a project. What's interesting about [this] is when you have complexity you want to break it down into small deliverables. Initially we thought that was "agile", but the CIOs were saying, 'We are not just doing that with small projects [such as] redesigning a website, we will do that with big projects as well'. So they saw that as a key way to overcome the barrier of complexity.

CIO: What did you conclude from this research? One of the big issues for CIOs is not having that seat in the boardroom. Did you find that and what else did you conclude?

Kalgovas: An interesting thing we found was that CIOs use storytelling a lot, where you tell stories instead of using facts and figures to influence someone by emotion. One CIO used the Ford [versus] Holden [analogy when describing differences between technologies] to get the board to understand what they were saying.

You can't talk technical speak to the board of directors, they need to understand what is going on. That was one way the CIOs said they could communicate effectively with the board and if you are going to have a seat on the board, you need to be able to communicate effectively.

The other thing was their reputation. If you have a poor history of implementation that really stops you from exploring and exploiting because nobody trusts you. One CIO said they focused on delivering quality [by] employing a quality engineer. They said, 'We'll sacrifice and release the project late and we'd rather have a late project than one that is poor quality because that destroys our reputation, it's not good for us at all.'


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