Missionaries spreading the CIO gospel

They may not be missionaries of the religious kind actively spreading the word of God, but a number of prominent CIOs have left their positions at some of Australia's largest companies to be full-time industry advocates.

Former Channel Nine CIO Keith Roscarel has joined the recently-formed CIO Executive Council in Australia as deputy executive director.

He began his full-time role at the council some weeks ago and has also been joined by former Unilever CIO Sue Bartlett who has become the council's Asia-Pacific operations director.

Commenting on her new role, Bartlett said she is keen to "spread the word" to the rest of the CIO community, describing herself as passionate when it comes to industry issues.

Officially launched in July 2005, the CIO Executive Council provides a peer-based forum for CIOs to set their own agenda, one that is free of vendor involvement.

Roscarel says the council is aggregating the brains trust of top CIOs so that IT leaders can leverage the expertise of peers and tackle issues unique to their profession.

Its formation has been met with a touch of religious zeal with more than 40 of Australia's top CIOs already members, but this figure will top the 100 mark in a very short time, according to the council's executive director Con Colovos, who said interest is currently skyrocketing.

It is for this reason the council has had to appoint additional full-time staff, looking to its own community to facilitate the expansion.

Roscarel says CIOs are the only ones that can set a CIO agenda, which often differs with the views expressed by vendors and the media. And what does he think is the toughest challenge facing CIOs?

"We serve many masters and there is no safe compromise; we support so many different lines of business from finance to sales that it can be tough trying to juggle them all and not step on too many toes," Roscarel said.

"Although we may have the same goals, IT may not get to own the project but it's important to make sure IT gets the right kudos.

"You can see how large IT shops struggle with this; just take a look at the banks where IT builds a fortress to try and combat this problem."

Bartlett agrees, and believes the reporting lines for CIOs are also important.

"If the whole business is under cost pressure, every line of business will look to IT for savings through things like automation," she said.

"As a CIO my agenda may be set by the pervasive cost-cutting theme across the company but equally I'm trying to be innovative.

"Your role can be determined by whether you report to the COO or the CFO, who have different agendas."

The CIO Executive Council is a division of IDG, publisher of Computerworld.

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