Home Industry Strategy Need for CIOs to be more ‘business savvy’

Chief Information Officers need to think more like ‘chief innovation officers’ to support business performance, leadership and transformation and to help make their organisations more competitive and successful, according to the CIO of one of Australia’s major surfwear icon companies.

According to the Global Head of Technology of Billabong International, Jason Millett, there is a need for a mindset shift and for CIOs to move away from what he calls “order takers’ to become more of a business partner and “an integral enabler of business performance and outcomes.”

Millett was speaking ahead of the Australian CIO Summit to be staged by the Marcus Evans event company on the Gold Coast, beginning on Wednesday 29 July and going through to Friday 31 July. Millett will be one of several keynote speakers at the summit.

According to Millett, IT has traditionally sat back and waited for the business to say what it needs to do, but he says for technology to be relevant today, “CIOs need to think more like Chief Innovation Officers and constantly push the boundaries of how their art can support the business.”

“They are more than technologists. They need to be talking about customer delight, revenue uplift and margin management; not just the traditional measures, such as cost.”

So, how does Millett envisage CIOs can they make this shift?

“It is a fairly simple path,” he suggests. “They have to be more business savvy, understand every lever, driver and nuance of the business they are supporting. They tend to lapse into thinking it is all about the technology, but it has to be more about the outcome and how technology can enable it.

“CIOs cannot contribute at the top of their game if they do not understand the key financial, customer and business drivers of their organisation.

“How should they design the IT roadmap for their business? This is about understanding the business strategy and plan, and getting in early with business partners.”

And, Millett says to achieve the shift in CIO thinking and focus, they need to consider what capabilities need to be made available and when, and what are the parameters and constraints from a financial or operational perspective? Then, he suggests, CIOs need to discuss issues to create a roadmap that will make the organisation more competitive and successful.

Millett, who will discuss his ideas in detail at the summit, says it is also the responsibility of CIOs to think about what new technologies or trends they should consider?

“It is their responsibility to look at what is new and important, but they must do that through a business lens. It has to be a trend that is enabling a better customer outcome, a lower unit cost, making the business simpler or driving value to the top line, and as a result to the bottom line.”

Millett says everyone is looking at mobility, big data and cloud services today, but that there is “nothing special about these technologies unless CIOs adapt them and create an advantage for their business.” “How can they be applied to create a disruption which then drives business benefit?” he asks.

Any final words of advice for CIOs from Millett?

Well, he does make he point that if CIOs also invested in educating their business partners, they would become the source of innovation.

“This is not about good ideas coming out of IT, but about presenting a series of enablements that would allow the business to go to the next level. That is how they would become true leaders,” Millett says, again making the point that “IT must move away from an order taker to a business partner.”


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Peter Dinham


Peter Dinham is a co-founder of iTWire and a 35-year veteran journalist and corporate communications consultant. He has worked as a journalist in all forms of media – newspapers/magazines, radio, television, press agency and now, online – including with the Canberra Times, The Examiner (Tasmania), the ABC and AAP-Reuters. As a freelance journalist he also had articles published in Australian and overseas magazines. He worked in the corporate communications/public relations sector, in-house with an airline, and as a senior executive in Australia of the world’s largest communications consultancy, Burson-Marsteller. He also ran his own communications consultancy and was a co-founder in Australia of the global photographic agency, the Image Bank (now Getty Images).