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A head for business

Byron Connolly | May 26, 2014
Corrs Chambers Westgarth’s Jon Kenton talks about his elevation up the c-suite, how technology is transforming legal firms, and why CIOs think the way they do.

A CIO is also unwilling to take the sorts of risks other c-levels, such as the COO, may take in relation to technology deployments, he continues."If you [switch on] a production system and it falls over, that's not good. If you look at a solution and someone says to you 'there's a 10 per cent chance it might not work', as a CIO you are saying 'hang on, that's not something I can live with.'

"Not all technology projects have that level of criticality but [CIOs] can get into the mindset of needing to eliminate failure. Uncertainty is not good, risk is not good and you want to eliminate those things in production.But as you become more senior, there's always going to be ambiguity and uncertainty.

Making a decision around that means [you need to] weigh that up with the knowledge that a lot of your decisions will not work."

Over the years, Kenton has learnt technology projects "aren't actually technology projects", they are change management projects with an element of technology.

"They normally end up in technology because that's the group that has the project management skillset," he says.

"But it's interesting when you talk to some technology project managers and ask them 'what's the outcome, what's your objective on this project?' Many will say 'it's to implement some new technology'. Not it's not; the objective is to change behaviour. If you don't change behaviour, the project hasn't succeeded."

Kenton's advice for becoming business chief
1. Understand the objectives of other c-level executives

Kenton says in a business environment, it's important to build longlasting relationships that enable you to have the right conversations, particularly when things go wrong.

"There are things that go well and things that go badly and it's important to have those relationships," he says. "It's also [about] how can you help them do what they need to do.

"I've spent a lot of time listening and building relationships with other people around the table to make sure I understand where they are coming from."

2. Get a mentor

Find someone who's moved into another c-level role - a mentor - and talk to them, says Kenton.

"Build relationships with people in the business you admire and look at how they go about things," he says."Think about what you do from a business lens rather than a technology lens - a lot of CIOs do that [but] it's really important."

3. Don't 'jump to the no'

Kenton has observed some people with analytical skills often 'jump to the no'.Although you may be right about the reasons why a new idea may not work in practice, saying 'no' doesn't encourage dialogue, he says.


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