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CIO transformation to COO and beyond?

Chee-Sing Chan | Oct. 12, 2011
Polish-born and Australia-bred, Cathay Pacific's CIO Tomasz Smaczny has a clear sense of where IT is heading --having written papers on IT's changing relationship with the business plus over 25 years of experience in retail and finance.

IT staff can look at applications and how these interact around processes and therefore produce value. From there you can think about incentivizing them around process performance in terms of time, cost and revenue generation.

This gives IT a lever to make a direct impact on the business. Right now it's usually the folks that oversee the business process that have this control lever but they may not understand the systems or processes in the context of the entire company.

CWHK: So IT is clearly moving beyond just business alignment?

TS: I have always argued against the traditional notion of "alignment". Alignment simply doesn't work because it implies a master/slave relationship between IT and the rest of the organisation. It's always sequential--one part of the organisationdevises the business strategy, then the IT strategy follows.

This is what universities tend to teach in their computer science curriculum, but this only works if there is no change in the business landscape and if everything stays more or less constant. My argument against alignment is that today nothing is constant and change is continuous and ever present. Such an environment demands agility and responsiveness. The old concept of alignment does not allow for that. For me it's all about fusion -- strategic decisions must be taken while considering all aspects. For example, the launch of the new Cathay premium economy class required all the elements of this strategy to be considered and decided on before launching. All elements needed to be considered at the same time.

This transformation is occurring even within our industry -- though the shift within IT is happening with greater pace maybe within finance and banking. But even here within the airline industry, current developments are leading us into this ongoing discussion around the changing role of CIOs and of IT as a whole.


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