IT bosses must tell their story

One of the most critical duties of a chief information officer or information technology manager is communicating what they do to stakeholders -- both internal and external.

commentary One of the most critical duties of a chief information officer or information technology manager is communicating what they do to stakeholders -- both internal and external.
Iain Ferguson, News Editor, ZDNet Australia

While most CIOs or IT managers are generally quite adept at briefing their peers and superiors -- they would not be in their high-ranking positions otherwise -- informing external stakeholders, such as customers, can be another matter.

Some regard their work as integral to the fortunes of their business and -- when major public announcements such as annual results are made -- are more than willing to comment publicly and at length on the role IT plays in their organisation. The National Australia Bank's high-flying Australian CIO Michelle Tredenick is just one who responded recently to calls to explain the role of IT in the institution's AU$2 billion turnaround program, fuelling confidence the institution has left the dark times of the last couple of years behind.

Other CIOs and IT managers who present at one or more of the multitude of conferences run on the ICT sector -- including Keith Roscarel of the Nine Network -- are more than willing to cooperate when asked for elaboration on comments made during their presentation. Roscarel's decision to do so demonstrated real confidence in the management and direction of Nine's IT operation and its contribution to the network's success in the highly competitive world of television.

It also contributed greatly to the local debate over offshoring -- one of the hot-button issues for CIOs and IT managers globally.

However, some other CIOs and IT managers seem a tad more reluctant to publicly engage with the media and through them, a hefty chunk of their external customer base. A recent effort to secure an interview with the head of information and communications technology at Australia Post landed only brief written responses to some e-mailed questions, a no-comment to others (interestingly on the topic of whether the organisation was considering re-establishing the CIO position after abolishing it last year) and a blanket refusal to be interviewed in depth on the government business enterprise's IT strategy. According to the Australia Post spokesperson, that individual had refused a number of interview requests as part of his desire to keep a low profile.

It is a shame because, as part of a government-owned enterprise whose business model is undergoing extensive change to accommodate new technology and market drivers, there is a strong argument that Australia Post's IT arm should be talking to the media and explaining how it is helping the organisation transform and thrive. Underlining this fact is the fact the former CIO of the organisation, Valda Berzins, was media-savvy and readily available to discuss what was going on there.

We earnestly hope Australia Post will again see the light.

Iain Ferguson is ZDNet Australia news editor.