"Fearless" CIOs get the funding

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"Fearless" CIOs get the funding

Why Australia's tech leaders need to back themselves.

Australian CIO's need to be "fearless” if they wish to have their innovation programs sponsored, ING Direct CIO Andrew Henderson told the opening panel of the CIO Strategy Summit in Melbourne this week.

Henderson, nominated as a finalist in the iTnews Benchmark Awards, asked why his fellow CIOs in the audience were so reserved about talking up their achievements.


Beyond the tools and skills a CIO might concern themselves with, innovation requires "fearless leaders", he said.


"One of the nice things about this process with the Benchmark Awards is that we're celebrating leadership across a wide range of industries where people have been fearless about giving things a go," he said.  


"We're not talking about outages today, we're not talking about outsourcing, we're actually talking about things that we've done creatively in our industry."


Concerns about governance and control — a theme across several presentations — need not be a barrier to fast-paced change, he said.


"We can still design for the control, we can design for quality," Henderson said. "But I think the biggest impediment we have to getting things done faster is ultimately not backing ourselves and being confident in delivering what our business is really after, and ultimately what our customers are after."


Henderson said a culture of innovation didn't always require a CIO to beg a board for huge sums of capital.


In the case of ING's Bank in a Box solution, Henderson approached executive sponsorship trying to "replicate the passion of the team for the concept". He proposed to ING's board that the project "wouldn't need any funding until we can actually show you the concept working in front of your eyes."


His team and several vendor partners committed resources into building a working prototype within six weeks to achieve final sign-off. 


"That was fantastic for me because we'd invested nothing other than our own time and passion," he said.


"I think one of the things we need to be a little bit careful of is holding ourselves back because funding is the first thing that we talk about. We need to really think about what we're trying to achieve for our business. If you actually give the team space, then who knows what you can create?"


Later in the panel sessions, Yarra Valley Water chief information officer Leigh Berrell said he sees IT business cases predicated on fear, faith and fact, with the focus typically skewed towards the first two.


The Utilities CIO of the Year in iTnews Benchmark Awards told an audience of his peers that the majority of business cases "that get put up are heavily weighted towards the fear or the faith components, and very little fact".

"Fear is typically, 'If we don't do this something bad will happen'. Faith is [an] 'If you build it they will come' type of approach, and fact is, 'We've done the research and these are the numbers'," he said.

"With most programs we try and put in place at Yarra Valley Water, we try to put as much fact into the business case as possible, look into all the details, work out all the permutations of what might happen and come up with something that you can have a little bit of trust in the outcome.

"There'll always be a faith component in there and I think for the faith component you really have to paint the picture for people as to what it is they're having faith in.

"If you can get those two things right and try and strip the fear away, then you've got a good business case."


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