What's on the minds of Australia's banking and finance CIOs as 2008 approaches? Finding skilled and talented people to work for them, effective communication with the other business leaders, and, of course, going green.
Expressing their views at an Australian Banking and Finance Magazine forum in Sydney, the CIOs of Commonwealth Bank of Australia, the National Australia Bank, and the Bank of Queensland all face similar challenges in this new era of IT-dependent financial services.
Commonwealth Bank of Australia CIO Michael Harte didn't mince words when asked how important people are to the success of his IT organization.
"The people make all the difference," Harte said. "The test is how you invest in protecting and growing that particular asset. We've invested in a program of taking people to MIT helping them understand the importance of non-traditional learning as it relates to their IT career path."
Harte said traditionally IT has been about managing big systems or big projects, where in fact a lot can be learnt by osmosis and not in a tertiary institution.
"What you do need to learn is how to deal with teams and how to motivate and retain them because motivating and retaining the existing employees you have is going to be the biggest defence in the war for talent," he said. "People in IT need to understand importance of customer interactions. They haven't been taught that at educational institutions."
Harte believes Australia is a "fantastic" consumer of ICT and is the most productive consumer among OECD nations because there is more focus on the human resource side than the development side and "I don't know that that's too bad a thing".
"The more we get our IT people focused on the customer, on supporting the business, and developing the people, the more competitive we will be as an industry," he said.
NAB CIO Michelle Tredenick said the IT industry went through a growth period seven years ago, and then into a lull, and "we are back into a growth period".
"Throughout that, the issue of how to attract and retain talent and how to make people feel good about their work is an issue," she said. "Talking to my team we talk about it a lot and it is a subject that is foremost on our mind."
BOQ CIO Iain Blacklaw went a step further and declared the amount of time business leaders spend talking about people in some organizations is woeful. "Happy workers means happy customers, which means happy shareholders," Blacklaw said.
"The amount of time I spend on people issues is nowhere near what it should be. We have a responsibility as IT leaders to shape out a large part of the agenda."
Blacklaw expressed concern about the lack of investment that Australia makes into training and development, especially in IT.
"In the early 90s we hired a lot of people from Asia to support IT, but India is now churning out thousands of IT graduates and I don't see that flow coming from our university system," he said. "I don't see a lot of smarts coming from the government in terms of investing in people in Australia. The industry is littered with projects that haven't gone well because we put people onto projects who have no idea which end is up, but because they are available. We just don't have the depth of capability in this country to deal with the things we have to deal with."