Resources company redefines CEO-CIO relationship

CIOs garner more respect when sitting at the leadership table

Peter Nevin (left) and Mark Read

Peter Nevin (left) and Mark Read

CEOs and CIOs have been known to make strange bedfellows, but there is a new breed of younger more tech-savvy CIOs that are changing the relationship for good.

Those were the words of CIO magazine editor Linda Kennedy as she introduced Mark Read and Peter Nevin, the CEO and CIO respectively, of engineering and minerals processing company Sedgman Australia.

Sedgman began some 35 years ago, but over the past two years significant changes have occurred, including divestiture beyond coal and a public listing on the stock exchange.

After a career at engineering consulting firm SKM, Read joined the company three months ago and was closely followed by Nevin, who also worked for SKM.

With fresh leadership at Sedgman, the company is unique in that it can define a new CEO-CIO relationship, which Read and Nevin are intent on fostering.

“The CEO has to have a level of trust in the CIO as you are handing over the keys to the Ferrari and hoping it comes back in one piece,” Read said.

“The whole IT piece is a very fast moving piece of the business. It’s the part where you are investing large amounts of money and in 18 months looking back and hoping things work.”

When asked what Read was looking for in Nevin to bring to the CIO role at Sedgman, he said his communication ability.

“Peter has the ability to have a voice at the leadership table,” Read said. “I've seen that as a challenge and many organizations don't do it well. Peter needs to be outspoken.”

For Nevin’s part, it was an “easy decision” to join Sedgman.

“Mark is a young techno-savvy CEO,” Nevin said. “It’s not relevant where you report, it’s whether the organization utilizes the role of CIO.”

Nevin also likes to opportunity to be in a transformation role where he can be in an “influential position in the organization”.

As the CIO of SKM for a decade, Nevin said during that time the role began to move from task-focused to more of a strategic role, including moving from technology to people management.

“The CIO role itself is maturing by embracing new management techniques, but to me the role is moving to a title on the screen,” Nevin said. “The time is coming for an exciting business process push where IT and business processes are becoming one. That is the direction I see it going.”

With the official title of executive general manager, business processes, Nevin believes the CIO role will morph into a process management role as it will focus on entire projects, not the specific technology.

What does Nevin prize in a CEO? Strategic thinking and a level of “earned trust” such that the CIO is seen as part of the business.

Nevin said the other business function leaders at Sedgman have been “highly accepting” of him and all parts of the organization are seen as important.

“At this stage, they are very accepting and excited about the role,” he said. “The communications side is bidirectional; by being part of the executive team it's amazing how much the team accepts the role of CIO.”

Sedgman, with the full support of CEO Read, is beefing up its IT infrastructure to support business growth and agility. And scalability is a priority.

“A company's ability to be agile is the difference between success and failure,” Read said. “Agility is an important gauge of success in the future. Companies are not agile due to culture. Change is not scary, change is good so it's a cultural thing.”

Read said organizations can become preoccupied with power and position rather than substance.

“Companies collect baggage over time, and reward people that don't take risks, rather than those who do,” he said. “Those behaviours start paralyzing the organization.”

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