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Leadership's tug of war

Tim Mendham | Feb. 18, 2014
Why IT is proving a less attractive discipline for women

CIOs as business leaders
Like all senior IT managers, these four CIOs are working toward defeating the IT-as-cost-centre mentality common among many other executives, and do this through proving and providing their business acumen.

"I believe there are four key pillars supporting every business: Finance, human resource management, marketing and information technology," Beveridge says. "All four should receive board and executive attention as a weakness as any one pillar will affect the foundations of the entire organisation.

"Our technology is one of the selling points for IT services, and hence has a positive contribution to future revenue. As CIO, it is not about making money or being cost neutral in my business area, it is about contributing to the revenue growth and cost efficiency of the organisation as a whole.

"My KPIs relate to organisational capabilities and how technology contributes to the efficiency and effectiveness of people, processes and systems."

This might mean upsetting some attitudes entrenched among management. In her current organisation, Parton recalls amazed but positive commentary from a number of senior leaders in the operational business when the CIO opened a corporate event by speaking knowledgeably and in detail on financial and strategic elements of organisational performance.

"If IT does not have a seat at the table then it is difficult to fully contribute to the economic success of the organisation," she says.

Recent major projects contributing to the bottom line include Beveridge's replacement of a CRM system to SaaS, as well as a new free online education learning management platform. Biggin, meanwhile, has overseen a replacement of a document management system with involvement from the directors of the AMA.

And Weatherston cites the recent development of global transaction banking and mobile consumer platforms that is "central to our strategy of being the most connected bank in our region".

Keeping that balance — being ahead of the technology game, ensuring business outcomes, while maintaining effective IT operations - is key to the Future-State CIO.

"I have yet to meet the perfect leader or indeed the perfect CIO," Weatherston says. "The day we stop striving to improve is the day we should give up. It's incumbent on all of us fortunate enough to obtain leadership roles to keep learning. It is very important to be self aware and to constantly look to build on strengths and work harder on shortcomings."

Perfect or not, male or female, it is difficult to achieve this state, Biggin says. "My advice would to be keep flexible and open minded. However, you can only achieve something if you continue to completion. If you get side-tracked, you'll never get there."

Hopefully being a woman is not one of those issues side-tracking the career of Australia's Future-State CIOs.



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