Create transformative innovation

Talk tech to me: Meet the CIOs who collaborate best

Highlights

Build a collaborative workplace today:

  • Treat the business as the client
  • Utilise both high-tech and low-tech methods
  • Get the right technology to support an effective mobile workforce
  • Encourage good communication – this means listening too

A new breed of CIO is leading the charge – collaboratively.

If you want people to communicate with each other, it’s a good idea to make sure there are no walls and closed doors between them.

This is why tearing down the office walls in his IT department was Tim Thurman’s first step when he became chief information officer (CIO) of the Australian Securities Exchange in 2012. “There were a lot of people raising their eyebrows at first, saying ‘this guy is crazy’,” Thurman says. It was just the start.

Talk tech to me: Meet the CIOs who collaborate best

The business is the client

Great communication is central to the agile approach to IT project delivery with its iterative, incremental method of managing design-and-build activities.

With $50 million of transformative IT projects to deliver, Thurman needs his 200-plus IT staff and 70 or so contractors talking to operational staff across the ASX about what works and what doesn’t.

Twenty projects are already underway, including the ASX’s new trading program. Thurman moved many staff out of the IT department and onto the floor with their “clients”. “The business is the client,” Thurman says. “My earliest days at IBM fostered that. And with that comes a transition in how you communicate and run your [IT] business.”

Low-tech meets high-tech

Some parts of agile project management are surprisingly low-tech – with whiteboards and post-it notes used to encourage collaborative thinking and creativity. “You couldn’t find a wall without post-it notes all over it here,” Thurman says. “Everything is visible. If you have a question, the answer is right in front of you.”

Likewise, Tourism Australia’s CIO, David Rumsey, says wall charts make it easy to collaborate, especially with stakeholders outside his team.

Rumsey uses another low-tech communication strategy: “I encourage my team to pick up the phone or walk over and have a conversation with their colleagues,” he says. “It’s often the simplest, quickest way.”

The business is the client – and with that comes a transition in how you communicate and run your [IT] business.

Tim Thurman, CIO, Australian Securities Exchange

Visual and mobile

Technology plays a crucial role in keeping teams mobile and sharing with stakeholders outside the company. At Tourism Australia, for example, teams use Slack for project management, SharePoint Online for collaboration and JIRA for software development.

For Thurman, it’s important ASX staff are mobile. “[Most] employees are not tagged to their desk with a machine – just a few are – and all our monitors have collaborative tools,” he says.

The ASX also hosts technical forums with clients dialling in from around the world to receive training and provide feedback on current projects.

The qualities that support change

Agile methodology demands good communication. For operational staff, it’s about building the confidence to “talk tech” with the specialists. For the IT team, it’s about talking business operations and outcomes. Thurman looks for “willingness to change how you do things, to fail fast and recover quickly”.

Rumsey wants his team to challenge the status quo with constructive opinions. “Key qualities are being a good listener and having some empathy – no matter how basic the problem may seem.”

And the pay-off for the pace and pressure? “For me, it’s launching products that have no problems and that satisfy clients,” Thurman says.

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