Home People People Moves The challenges facing IT leaders: Business execs give their views and advice

The challenges facing IT leaders: Business execs give their views and advice

Executives and business leaders from a broad range of sectors, from banking, telecommunications and resources, to government, have effectively thrown out a challenge to IT and technology leaders to start exerting their influence to a greater degree, and give the advice that’s needed to make their businesses more competitive by taking up opportunities thrown up in the digital world of today.

Some pretty pointed advice about what technology leaders can do to exert greater influence and help their organisations gain a competitive edge - “The role of technology leaders needs to shift from operating systems to transitioning organisations to a new future,” or “Technology leaders need to develop the ability to explain what technology is being used for and to make the case for its use. It is not an option that a rare person can do.” – came today at a gathering in Melbourne of a mixture of business and industry executives and technology leaders.

The opinions and thoughts of these business and industry executives – from the appropriately named ‘The Big Kahuna’ group - were espoused today at a get-together in Melbourne organised by respected business adviser, Brian Donovan, when he presented the findings of The Donovan Leadership Big Kahuna Leadership Survey.

Donovan, who created the ‘loose’ coalition of like-minded business executives he’s called The Big Kahuna group, went through chapter and verse the survey findings which, in a nutshell, showed that the disruption to businesses and industries being caused particularly by “mass consumerisation of IT” is also affecting technology leaders in a number of key sectors, primarily banking, telecommunications, resources and government.

The key message from the survey, delivered by Donovan from The Big Kahuna executives, was that technology leaders need to start moving up what he calls the “influence curve.”

“Supporting technology leaders to move up the influence curve will give businesses a competitive edge, Donovan said.

“There’s a shift that technology leaders need to make to expand their influence. Companies are seeking good advice about their digital strategy to capture the opportunities of this new world.”

Donovan attracted an audience to the meeting, at the Macquarie Group offices, of executives from companies including Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu, Infosys, Clicks IT Recruitment, NEC, NBN Co, SMS Consulting, Australia Post, Telstra, Macquarie Telecom and the Commonwealth Bank, not to mention the Save the Children organisation and the social enterprise publication, The Big Issue, which provides creative solutions to the issue of homelessness.

The Big Kahuna survey of business, industry and government executives was enlightening in what these executives see as some of the challenges for IT leaders in their organisations.

The executives, as Donovan said, highlighted the fact that consumers now have computing power at their fingertips and they are using it in new and unexpected ways, with implications and challenges for the IT leaders.

“They are influencing company reputations through social media, collaborating in unprecedented ways and driving changes in business models along the way.”

Donovan said The Big Kahuna execs highlighted a tipping point which occurred about two years ago with the introduction of the iPad.

“Everyday consumers have spending and buying power. This is also changing the rules for technology leaders and bringing with it massive upheaval.

“The power has shifted. It’s no longer about centralised business control of IT direction. Consumers and device manufacturers now have much more say.”

Donovan proffered the advice of The Big Kahunas that technology leaders need to “get closer to the business drivers and the markets they serve.”

“There’s a shift that technology leaders need to make to expand their influence. Companies are seeking good advice about their digital strategy to capture the opportunities of this new world,” he said.

Donovan cited an IBIS World white paper, predicting that 15 industry classes risked future failure unless they adapted and innovated, to support the view that businesses and industries were being massively disrupted.

“What is clear from the survey is that technology leaders are themselves being severely disrupted. Technology leaders need to broaden their business and people skills as well as maintaining their grasp of technology. That will enable them to embrace the new era of consumer power. They will consequently also need to give up the level of centralised control they once exercised.”

Donovan summarised the survey, saying that in the 21st century technology leaders need to add to their repertoire to move up the influence curve.

“Technology leaders need to expand their influence on several fronts. They need to be able to influence company digital strategy, boards and senior executives, as well as their business colleagues, customers, suppliers and their own matrix teams.”

In short, people skills, communications, giving strong and fearless advice and opinions on technology matters and generally exerting their influence in the interests of gaining competitive advantage for their businesses, is the challenge issued to IT leaders by the 60 executives who responded to the Big Kahuna Leadership Survey.


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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).