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Divina Paredes | Aug. 20, 2013
For Rob Fyfe, innovation and risk management go hand in hand, and he shares how this was demonstrated during his term as CIO and then chief executive at Air New Zealand.

If he had wanted to run an airline, he says he could have stayed on at Air New Zealand. "I was running what I felt was the best airline in the world."

His next role will not necessarily be in a large corporate. "I would like to work with companies that have the potential and the aspiration and the self belief that they can be world-class, based on a sense of a New Zealand identity."

No finish line ahead
As one of the few enterprise CEOs who was a former CIO, Fyfe talks about what makes an effective CIO. Fyfe says having an effective relationship with the CEO and other members of the executive team is important. "The success of the IT division in the organisation is highly dependent on how effective those relationships are with the executive team," he says.

Communications also play a crucial role in managing that relationship. He shares that when he joined Air New Zealand as CIO, "I was fielding weekly groans and gripes from most of my peer groups in the executive team about not getting all the IT priorities. People wanted to do so much and there is only so much money."

When he was CEO, though, the CIO Alastair Grigg (now Xero chief operating officer and predecessor of current CIO Julia Raue) had less capital expenditure. Yet, he says, the satisfaction of the people around the business "had gone up enormously."

"I wasn't hearing any of the gripes and grumbles about not getting my project done."

He discloses it was because Grigg "was such a good communicator so there was less money to go around, but he had developed really good processes for how we set our priorities and he communicated well. Everyone understood why their project was not on this year's list."

"That was the secret," he says. "We were really clear about shifting the emphasis to make sure as much of our development work was focused on customer systems, rather than internal systems and so on; and people understood what we were trying to do as a business."

His message to a would-be CIO is simple: "Ultimately, any business is about people."

"If you are a CIO, look at how you can make a difference in people's lives, and they may be your employees, the entire organisation and communities."

This may be about applications, the environment you are managing, and how this supports the objectives of the organisation.

"But it is more than that," he states. "It is actually about how your IT community affects the overall outcomes of the company, how they interact with other people within the company, and how they actually become a community that is respected within the organisation as people; rather than just respected as a community that delivers the IT functionality."


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