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The business end of IT

Nadia Cameron | June 12, 2013
Foxtel CIO Robyn Elliott discusses innovation and IT investment at the media company.

The key lesson was to turn the conversation so that IT wasn't seen as the bottleneck or cost. "Once you achieve that relationship, much more starts to happen," Elliot claims. "It's about a true partnership where technology is part of the job, an enabler and a value-add."

Building bridges
After 11 years as Foxtel's CIO, Elliott has seen plenty of change including the organisation's expansion into digital and mobile services, program applications, remote recording capabilities and more.

"Technology is challenging and difficult, and some of the things we use at Foxtel are not considered traditional IT -- we are pushing the boundaries of what we can do with a set-top box or a smartphone, and how we translate video content into Internet-enabled services," she says. "It presents a lot of interesting challenges."

Today, technology is critical in all facets of Foxtel's business, improving knowledge and respect outside the core technology team. According to Elliott, IT still needs to enable everything, but not necessarily drive it.

"The reason we can accomplish so much is because we have business-led projects where technology is a fundamental part and the IT team is front and centre shaping the delivery of that," she explains.

"You want to enable as much as you can across the different functions. In the business applications space I have a lot of help from other business units and executives as to how we go about it. We all jointly own the results and our mission statement and KPIs are the same in IT as the business.

"Terms like alignment don't reflect the level it needs to reach; technology has to be completely integrated into the business projects, results and outcomes."

For Elliott, CIOs and their teams need to be good technologists while building the right mix of skills and understanding around their business impact. "Part of my job is to think about what might happen, and look at how the decisions we make now on the technology front open up strategic options in the future or constrain us," she says.

"Long-term thinking is also fundamental because no one else will do that. If the CIO doesn't do it for the technology roadmap and how that affects the business roadmap, no one else will.

"You have to have a clear view of what might happen in the company, and that's not something that will be written down and given to you. It's part of the engagement of executives and your thinking, industry knowledge and keeping up to date."

Any strategic approach also should be about providing a continuous stream of delivering value to the business both short- and long-term. At the same time, great CIOs focus on what the organisation needs at any given point in time.


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