Business leader Bob Mansfield has lent staunch support to IT executives bidding to progress to chief executive level, claiming that as long as they develop their management skills, they are on a sure path to the top job.
A board member of corporations including McDonald's Australia, Investec Bank Australia and Airline Partners Australia, Mansfield (pic) said today's IT executives were in prime position to lead business, due to the rising importance of technology.
"The role of the CIO is absolutely critical. It's no longer, when I first started, an adjunct to the financial area whereby you were primarily focused on processing figures faster," he told a Hewlett-Packard seminar in Sydney.
"IT today is at the heart of the organisation. It's also, I believe, a definite future path to chief executives; the CIO role. Because that's how much impact they are having today and will have in organisations in the future."
To seize the opportunity in front of them, CIOs had to ensure they were capable managers as well as IT professionals, according to Mansfield.
"It's an onus on CIOs to become true managers, not just technicians.
"Make sure you develop the management capabilities augmented by the technical knowledge to [gain] leadership respect in your organisation," he said.
"That ultimately gives CIOs the opportunity to be groomed as CEOs in the future, because they're going to be needed."
A former board member of both Telstra and Optus, Mansfield is no stranger to the ICT industry.
He mentioned his telco experience when explaining that the amount of money involved in IT projects meant CIOs would continue to be hard pressed to prove results to the business.
"I think one of the challenges that any of the businesses I've been involved with, including the telcos, is the fact that there's such big dollars involved now, in this IT implementation area, that sometimes it's easy to put the clouds of opportunity in when the budget's made.
"Then as you progress through, it's harder and harder to prove that those clouds of opportunity have been delivered.
"It's going to become even more incumbent on CIOs, as part of the overall management team, by staying close to the user, to prove that that investment is paying off. Because if you [don't], the next investment you want to make will very rarely be given to you."
Mansfield then briefly outlined the potential that technology could have on business growth by referring to Airline Partners Australia's recent failed bid for Qantas.
"The thing that struck me during the recent experience I had on this Qantas bid, which failed a couple of weeks ago as you all know, was how fast you had to have business process evaluation today, and six months ago, and 12 months ago," he said.
He then cited the speed at which the Seven and Nine television networks recently spun off some of their media assets.
"It is a reality that those organisations did in a period of a month what previously took three or four months to do.
"Now a lot of that is made possible because of technology. But it impressed upon me that every organisation needs to go back ... and refresh [their business processes], bring them up to date, because they've been accelerated unbelievably as a result of the reality that's happening in the marketplace today."