7 Striking Takeaways from Australia’s CIO Survey Event

September 25, 2017

For five years we have been at this. Each year we co-host the Australian unveiling of the global Harvey Nash/KPMG CIO Survey data in Sydney to a room of CIOs and tech visionaries. And after that? We then co-author this blog from opposite sides of the world. It’s a fabulous ritual that allows us to both absorb and disseminate several of the powerful lessons shared by our brilliant Australian CIO panels and audiences.

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What have we learned in our fifth year at this? First that Australia’s epic growth streak, which has resulted in 26 years without a recession, continues to foster a culture of positivity and possibility that we see and hear each year in Sydney.
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The passion for innovation, action and entrepreneurialism is always in the air at these annual gatherings, and this year was no exception. Despite the fact that this year’s Harvey Nash/KPMG CIO Survey is titled “Navigating Uncertainty” and reveals underlying global concerns around cyber security and political, economic and business uncertainty, CIOs in Australia are embracing the digital opportunities of today. They are case studies in how to steadily adapt with constant change. The leaders on our CIO/executive panel for this year’s event included Anastasia Cammaroto, Chief Information Officer for Consumer Bank, Westpac Group; Michael Priddis, CEO, Faethm; Jamila Gordon, Director and Global CIO of GetSwift Limited; William Payne, Chief Information Officer, Boral Australia. All of the participants embodied this spirit of possibility and positivity and you can hear and see that in a few of the video interviews we conducted with at this year’s CIO Survey event and shared here:

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From left to right: Anastasia Cammaroto, Chief Information Officer for Consumer Bank, Westpac Group; Michael Priddis, CEO, Faethm; Jamila Gordon, Director and Global 7CIO of GetSwift Limited; William Payne, Chief Information Officer, Boral Australia; Anna Frazzetto, CDO & SVP of Harvey Nash; Albert Ellis, Global CEO of Harvey Nash PLC.; and Bridget Gray, Managing Director of Harvey Nash
All of them saw today’s toughest challenges (demanding customers with high digital expectations, colossal data sets, security concerns, boards focused on near-term results, etc.) as great opportunities for CIOs to lead and make positive change. To honor and spread that spirit, we are sharing a “Top Seven” list of the most striking lessons and takeaways from this year’s event. If you attended and have more to add, please share them in the comments.
7 Striking Lessons from Sydney’s Tech Leaders
1.Tech Needs Automation Optimism & Action
CEO Michael Priddis was the first on the panel to share both realism and positivity when it comes to the reality of growing automation of work and jobs in IT. Priddis conceded that there will be and needs to be automation because it drives efficiency and companies that don’t automate will no longer be relevant. However, he also shared that within technology there is an answer: the data. Data can be used to get ahead of where IT jobs are going away and where new and different IT jobs are going to be needed.
“Computers are good at the jobs we find hard, and bad at the jobs we find easy,” explained Priddis as he discussed how humans aren’t great at routine processing, repetitive and dangerous work but computers are. Humans are excellent at work that requires intuition, communication, synthesis, imagination, collaboration and curiosity and computers are not. If business and government can use data and forecasting to identify both opportunities for automation and jobs where humans are most needed, we can begin to build better ways to work and adapt talent for digital realities.
2.CIOs Need to Satiate Hunger for Digital Context
CIO William Payne spoke about the fact that his role has become one of digital translator of sorts, helping different business groups understand their role in the company’s greater digital transformation and growth. While the CIO Survey addresses the important of the CIO engaging with the Executive Board, Payne’s point was that he is spending a lot of time helping Executive Directors and General Managers (the leaders just under the c-suite) on addressing their real business problems with digital tools and solutions. CEOs and the Board are keen to know that IT and CIOs are supporting the digital transformation for all business groups.
3.A New Role for Tech: Agile Ambassadorship
Business groups that are looking to work faster and more effectively are looking to IT and tech for lessons in Agile success. The panel in Australia and CIOs attending the event shared how they are helping other business organizations beyond IT adopt more Agile ways of working in order to more effectively operate and collaborate in the digital work of ever-changing tools and skills.
4.CIOs Need to Teach Boards to Think Long Term
The audience of CIOs was quick to applaud the idea that today’s Executive Boards need to have a better understanding of the time required for digital change to have business impact. Several panelists counseled the audience that it was a critical part of their jobs to educate their Boards to understand the complexity of the work being done and the long-term vision and opportunities of the digital transformations. If CIOs do not make the business case for the time needed to make transformational changes, they will continue to face resistance from Boards that expect returns on investment in 12 months or less.
5.Welcome to Digital’s Second Wave
Guy Holland, National Lead Partner — Digital Consulting and Technology Strategy and Performance for KPMG, also joined the panel of CIOs and shared how businesses have now entered the “second wave” of digital transformation. Where early digital efforts and investment focused on buyer channels and shaping the customer experience up front, businesses are now realizing that they have to adapt the rest of the organization to deliver on the digital promise. The digital transformation focus is shifting to middle and back office operations that need to operate with accurate real-time data and require multidisciplinary teams of people who can think and operate digitally.
6.Tech Skills Matter Less than Tech Smarts
In terms of IT skills, CIOs in Australia at the event and on the panel talked about the importance of recruiting for adaptability and intelligence rather than for specific skills. The pace of technological change is constantly accelerating, which means the skills sets needed in today’s IT environment will be different for those needed next year. CIOs and IT leaders need to shift recruiting away from skills and look more broadly at experiences, talent, aptitude for learning and comfort with change.
7.We Can’t Control Customers
One of the many highlights of the event was when Anastasia Cammaroto agreed with an audience member who questioned how we could possibly control how and when customers want to engage. Her response is “you are absolutely right. We can’t control consumers and their habits. They are as digitally native as we are now.” Her advice to CIOs was work to understand the motivations of their customers and clients and to be where they need you to be. There are customers that want to bank, buy or browse with Alexa or Facebook. How can we as providers adapt with the tools these digital natives want to use? CIOs will have to meet customers and clients where they are.
And these were only seven of the many lessons gathered in one powerful day in Australia. We invite you to gather more lessons by watching interviews and videos from the event here. You can also download the CIO Survey and learn more about how today’s CIOs are shaping tech and our changing business world.