NZ Digital Manifesto - Who Is Keen?

During the course of the last year there has been a lot of talk about the need for stronger technology leadership in New Zealand, to make us a world leader in the new Digital Economy.

Companies such as Xero, Vend and Orion (amongst others, including some great work being done by ICT industry groups) have started putting New Zealand on the Global Digital Map and we now have an unpredicted opportunity to build on these successes to position New Zealand as a Digital Superpower.

To achieve Superpower status we will need the right people around the table and an action-oriented, coordinated plan - no mean feat for sure. I’m certainly not trivialising the effort required but the journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step. I put to you that coming up with a Digital Manifesto for NZ - to guide investment in people, businesses and government - is an exceptionally good place to start.

Over the past 3 or so months I’ve started thinking that we have now talked about the issue long enough* - its time for action!  I’m looking to form a coalition of the willing to work on formulating and promoting a NZ Digital Manifesto.

So what do you say, want to join us?

Tweet me, email me, call me - whatever works for you, reach out if you’re keen to be involved.

* the UK have in fact got a jumpstart on us ( but in true Kiwi spirit I know we can make up for lost time quickly and soon become world leaders - plus, they have some reasonable ideas we can build on too.

Candid Exit Interviews - Insights Into What’s Really Going On

I can never figure out whether it’s ego or naivety that stops people from having candid conversation with people who are leaving their organisation - its one of the best opportunities to figure out what’s really happening in your organisation and yet so few people capitalise on it or pay lip services to it.

Over the years I’ve taken the time to talk to lots of people leaving organisations to figure out whether they are any common reasons people choose to leave and what we can learn from their experiences.

Each situation is different however I’ve compiled a list of common threads covered in ‘so, you’re leaving - why is that?' conversations. In no particular order:

  • They didn’t feel challenged - smart people don’t want to be doing the same thing day in and day out.
  • They didn’t feel like they were growing - there’s always room to grow and smart people are acutely aware of continuous development/improvement
  • Their contribution wasn’t recognised - great people do great work but we’re all only human - they want recognition for what they have done.
  • They didn’t feel like they had a voice - clever people have clever thoughts, hunches and intuitions; they need to be given the space to act on them.
  • They didn’t see any real leadership - businesses don’t fail, products don’t fail, projects don’t fail, and teams don’t fail—leaders fail.
  • They didn’t get new responsibilities - clever people need space to spread their wings, keeping them confined frustrates them as much as anything else.
  • They felt shortchanged - often the employer didn’t live up to their commitments/promises. More often then not its about growth/development opportunities or training; it is almost never about remuneration.

So many of these things can easily be addressed through a candid conversation with people. Forget the political correctness - sit them down over a coffee (or even a beer) and ask the ‘so, how’s it going?' question.

And then listen; really listen and do something about what they tell you before they vote with their feet.

Thoughts on #NZCIO Summit 2014

Conferences and summits are inherently hit and miss - they are often a mixed bag of content propped up by some okay networking opportunities. Too often there are too many cliche & platitude sessions and not enough practical, experience based content. That perhaps sounds a bit cynical but I’ve attended a shed-load of events over the years.

That being said the New Zealand CIO Summit 2014 pleasantly surprised me. I’ve been a long to quite a few of these Summits over the years (I think there have been about 8 in total - correct me if I’m wrong) and this years event was head and shoulders above previous years.

What I really enjoyed this year is that almost all sessions had a strong business focus. Often you go to IT conference and its a brief mention of business outcomes followed by speeds & feeds presentations (although that’s slowly but surely dying off).

Some other top of mind musings on themes and key outtakes for me - in no particular order - below.

  • Speed to delivery is an imperative for all industries. It used to be restricted to some industries - like retail and technology - but it’s now a key business drivers for everyone.
  • Information (data) is the new business commodity - almost every organisation is now in the information business, consciously or unconsciously.
  • All business strategies are digital - any business strategy that doesn’t factor in digital is doomed to failure.
  • Be adaptive or risk becoming irrelevant - change is the new normal.
  • When it comes to IT service delivery one size fits none - I’d argue this has always been the case. The ‘standard desktop image’ days were a misguided period driven by false economies.
  • We all need to think globally whilst we deliver locally - CIOs have a broad range of scalable, secure and cost effective solutions at their disposal. We need to tap into global platforms and services.
  • It always boils down to people - surround yourself with smart, capable people and support them in doing awesome things.
  • CIOs need to work hard at reducing the cost of ‘keeping the lights on’ each time they do any major IT asset upgrade or replacement - creating that space for doing the things the business values, not running infrastructure.
  • Demo Projects coupled with Design Thinking disciplines are taking off in a major way - we certainly had a lot of success with that approach in the last 18 months.
  • Agile has earned its stripes across NZ organisations - for a long time it was a nice concept but we see organisations really embracing it and reaping benefits.
  • Culture is simply the demonstrated behaviour of a organisation’s leadership - Barbara Chapman and the team from ASB have shown us what’s possible with a recognition of the role technology plays in business, the right culture and having awesome people on the bus.
  • Users will find ways to use great products and services - look at how many people have found a way to access NetFlix from NZ eventhough, technically, it’s not available here. You can’t fight it.
  • Connect with your users - don’t assume you know what they want; chances are pretty good you’re wrong. People want to be involved in exploring possibilities and building new things - tap into that.
  • The global talent/skills shortage is well and truly now hitting NZ but quite a few awesome initiatives are coming together to meet the challenge. I’ve always been passionate about talent supply chains and it’s awesome to see dots being joined across NZ.
  • Boards needs CIOs to help them understand technology better - managing risk better and capitalising on business growth opportunities.

The CIO Awards Dinner was a great event; congratulations to all the winners and nominees this year. Hilary Barry was a fantastic MC.

Congratulations to Kevin Angland on winning the CIO of the Year Award.

Rod Drury is a very deserving of his Contribution to Technology Award - a fantastic ambassador working tirelessly to put NZ hitech on the map. Good on ya Rod!

Congratulations to the CIO Summit organisers - 2014 was a great year. Look forward to what 2015 has in store for us.

Leading Across Boundaries - #NZCIO

Peter Ennis talked about operating on a global stage - dealing with working across geographic and cultural boundaries. A topic that’s near and dear to me and something I’ve had more than my fair share of experience with.

I really enjoy working across geographies and meeting peoples across different cultures but it does present a unique set of challenges.

Peter has worked with a bunch of international organisations culminating in a role with Al Jazeera - an organisation that is truly global and growing at a huge rate. There are a lot of myths around Aj Jazeera and Peter did a great job to set the record straight for the audience. It’s not the terrorist television network and has never shown beheading videos - contrary to popular urban myths.

When Peter joined Al Jazeera’s IT infrastructure was a mess but it had some incredibly innovative and capable people. Luckily Qatar has access to resources and they were able to bring in experts and resources to help them lift their game. In a few cases onboarding consultancies actually set them back as it took time to get them up to speed.

IT security was a priority - Al Jazeera was often under attack. The investment required was at times also understated.

Peter touched on the cultural differences - for example, the role personal honour plays in Middle eastern business & political relationships. Something people working across cultures have to adapt to quickly.

Through adversities Peter was able to build support and form coalitions.

Often when working across culture and geographies it does really boil down to understanding people, adapting to local conditions and securing buy-in through results.

Trust is a universal currency - it’s essential to build and maintain it.