CIO role bloated, NAB takes step in right direction: analyst

NAB's move to dump the CIO role, spreading the responsibility between two different executives, has been lauded by IBRS analyst Sue Johnston.
Written by Spandas Lui, Contributor

The National Australia Bank (NAB) made the right decision to dissect and subsequently can the role of CIO, as the position has been crammed with too many responsibilities, according to IBRS analyst Sue Johnston.

Earlier this week, NAB unveiled an executive reshuffling, which saw the CIO role being dumped and the responsibilities being split between two people. NAB's CIO Adam Bennett has now been named executive general manager of enterprise transformation, responsible for the bank's NextGen IT transformation project, as well as for the overall IT strategy for the bank.

Meanwhile, Denis McGee, formerly application development and testing general manager, has become the CTO, responsible for the everyday management of IT for NAB. Christine Bartlett went from NAB NextGen executive program director to executive general manager for asset services in wholesale banking.

"These changes best position NAB to deliver its transformation agenda and meet the future opportunities technology provides to meet the need of our customers," a NAB spokesperson said. "The appointments will help us deliver on the challenges ahead, and recognise the increasingly crucial role technology plays in delivering the best experience and value for our customers."

Johnston thinks that NAB's decision to carve up the CIO role was a good move to put more focus on the important areas of the bank's technology road map. The position of CIO has become bloated in recent years, and Johnston expects more companies to follow in the footsteps of NAB.

"CIOs have traditionally been too concerned about the infrastructure component of their companies, so the role will split off to somebody who is going to worry about the infrastructure," she told ZDNet. "What CIOs should be doing is to help their organisations leverage their information assets, which could be anything from ICT, the infrastructure that supports it, but also helping with analytics and how organisations can better use their information about customers."

CIOs have also been burdened with driving innovation or implementing innovative technology within their organisations, which, along with all of their other responsibilities, is hard to do in a single role, according to Johnston.

Companies such as the Commonwealth Bank have established the role of chief innovations officer, which would help CIOs to alleviate some of the onus.

It also doesn't help that some companies are not using their CIOs efficiently. A recent Ernst & Young report showed that most CIOs are undervalued and under-utilised. Only 17 percent of surveyed CIOs are part of their company's top management team, and just 43 percent are involved in executive decision making.

"After more than a decade of having a CIO role, that's sad," Johnston said. "It's a tough role."

The IBRS analyst doesn't believe that CIO positions will be scaled back in the future. Instead, the role will be morphed and will undergo changes, she said.

"I think CIOs are going to be redefined, so they have more of a marketing, commercial type of perspective rather than internal ICT perspective," Johnston said.

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