Last week I hosted Media Corp’s CIO Leaders Summit in Sydney. In addition to my emcee duties, I also moderated two panels, both of which inspired significant discussion among the more than 50 senior IT decision-makers present. Highlights included:

  • Peter Bourke, CIO of Westfield, helped drive a lively discussion on the changing role of the CIO and strategies for leading innovation within the organization versus simply responding to business needs.
  • Andrew Wiles, CIO of Vodafone, addressed the importance of talent management and the skills that IT professionals require to succeed in a fast-paced business environment.
  • The CTOs of Avaya and Cisco provided excellent insight from the vendor perspective, while David Gee, CIO of Credit Union Australia, wrapped up the event with a vision of the future — the “microtrends and megatrends” likely to affect our lives, both professionally and personally.

While all of the sessions were well-received, two in particular stood out for me:

  • Telstra’s CIO pushed increased IT agility to support accelerating business change. Patrick Eltridge used his opening keynote to outline Telstra’s strategy for ensuring that technology management can keep up with the increased cycle times that are today’s business reality. His key message: Effectively managing demand from the business requires better project and process visibility, prioritization based on business needs, and more agile approaches to software development/delivery. As he clearly stated, “Traditional IT delivery doesn’t enable course corrections in real time, which is a key business requirement.” But this wasn’t simply an argument for agile development and DevOps. Instead, Patrick argued that the key success factors for tech management to better support business change are committed technology leadership to instill a culture based on “mastery, autonomy, and clarity of purpose” and executive-level sponsorship to help overcome natural, often deeply entrenched, resistance.
  • The head of IT strategy and architecture at the Bank of Queensland pushed the “workplace of the future.” Rob Stower outlined BOQ’s approach to improved collaboration that extends well beyond the internal workforce to include partners. In BOQ’s case, this often means small, remote retailers and/or branches. While mobility is a central design point, the strategy centers around security — namely, identity management and access control. From a supplier perspective, BOQ has pursued a “vendor-oriented vision” that centers around the Microsoft stack for productivity tools and Citrix for desktop virtualization. This was a pragmatic decision to drive simplicity in tool selection, leverage the experience gained from other implementations, and ensure that the focus remained on job design and culture — not technology — as core differentiators for the bank.

The key takeaway from this daylong event was the clear need for technology management (and business) leadership to be at the forefront of technology change. But it’s not enough to successfully steer the technology direction of your organization. Real leaders instill the culture to inspire risk taking, creativity, open communication and collaboration – all critical success factors in the age of the customer.