Nurture upcoming CIOs today, and reap future rewards, execs say

Corporate Australia should be thinking seriously about providing for staff development and education to ensure a crop of leaders who can deliver the future leadership needed for the vast human and capital resources invested in information technology.

According to Dale Murphy, deputy vice chancellor - higher education at Swinburne University, current IT leaders and CIOs have a responsibility to mentor and support the next generation of leaders.

Murphy will deliver a speech, Growing the Next Generation of IT Leaders, on Thursday to a group of IT exectuives at the SEARCC 2005 conference in Darling Harbour, Sydney.

"In discussing the education needs of future CIOs, I must confront the issue of the requirements for technical vs business-relevant knowledge. Existing CIOs will see this differently, based on their own backgrounds, experience and the perceived needs of their own companies. For some, many I would hope, my message will be recognizable and acceptable; for others this may not be the case.

Murphy says that future IT leaders in corporate Australia must first and foremost be business leaders.

"They must understand the technology or surround themselves with those that do, but most importantly, they must be able to relate IT strategies clearly to the core business strategies."

Nothing will be gained by inaction, he says: "It is possible that the next generation of CIOs will simply repeat history - massive and wasted expenditure on IT resources not aligned to the business strategy of the corporation."

Con Colovos, executive director, CIO Executive Council, believes in Murphy's message.

Over the years, he says, IT has always been regarded as an adjunct to the rest of the business, rather than IT being a core part of the business.

"Without the systems, technology, and processes that IT delivers, a lot of companies would be incapable of conducting business as they do today or the demands that the future may hold.

"The only way to achieve these results and continue to deliver benefits to the business is if the IT leaders in corporate Australia become known not only for their IT savvy and knowledge, but also become a part of the day-to-day activities of the business so they may have an opportunity to influence key business stakeholders in the decision-making process and act in an advisory way to MDs, chairmen and boards. Only then can the true worth and value that IT has to offer to the business be fully appreciated or understood."

Both Swinburne University and the CIO Executive Council are actively working together to more clearly identify these staff development needs.

The CIO Executive Council, in conjunction with Swinburne is developing a Graduate Certificate, Graduate Diploma, and Masters Degree that will encompass subjects specifically designed and chosen by the CIO EC members which they believe will be more in line for the requirements of a current IT graduate.

Colovos said the emphasis will be on the business component to enable students to better understand the complexities of business, dealing with budgets, and an overall understanding of general business practices that are a part of day-to-day activities of a CIO.

Another plan involves students spending 20 weeks side by side with a CIO to enable them to obtain a better interpretation of what a CIO does.

According to Murphy, it is still early days yet. He said the uni needs to define the specifics of the curriculum and undertake market research before all parties totally commit.

"All going well, mid-2006 might be a feasible start," he said.

IDG is the official organizer and media sponsor of the SEARCC 05 conference.

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