CIOs must be facilitators and masters of persuasion

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Deloitte’s CIO programme lead shares her thoughts on the attributes of a successful IT leader.

Although Glen Krynauw is a Deloitte partner today, she’s always struggled to choose between being career driven and being a mother – of eight.

While some of her children are away at university, the rest are still at home. “They keep me quite busy,” she says. “Most of my weekends are spent on sports fields, whether it be taking the boys to rugby, water polo or hockey,” she says. “Eight children might sound like a lot, but I actually could’ve had more!”

Glen is clearly equally enthused about motherhood as she is about her work. In September, she will be celebrating her 24th year with Deloitte. “I’ve occupied many roles within the company, including stints in strategy, consulting, and human capital, and I’ve spent most of my working career in the technology division,” she notes.

She still does wear multiple hats: she is the CIO programme leader at Deloitte, but her official role is human resources transformation (HRT) leader. “I’m not in the traditional HR role, which involves managing internal recruitment, but I sell human capital solutions to clients, essentially digital workforce engagement,” she explains.

Glen is responsible for expanding the Deloitte Human Capital technology, transformation, and strategy footprint with their advisory clients as the HRT leader. Her other passion is to help companies transform in order to improve the employee experience.

The softer touch
Glen’s wealth of experience in leadership positions within different divisions at Deloitte has had an obvious impact on her leadership style. She was the only woman among 18 partners in Deloitte’s tech division and describes it as quite a different environment.

“You often find that tech people are strong subject matter experts in the tech consulting environment, but when you move into human capital, there is a softer element to it,” she says. “It’s quite different and takes a bit of getting used to.” She does, however, point out that it is much easier to adjust and move into that role as a woman.

“I believe I made the environment more empathic and I think having a woman’s presence was a good thing. I became a model that other women could look up to in the tech space, especially because it was very unusual to have a woman in the space back then,” she says. “As a result, there are far more women in the business now.”

Glen spends quite a bit of time interviewing IT leaders as Deloitte’s CIO programme leader. Her main job in this regard, is to create a community of CIOs and teach them the necessary skills in order to succeed in their roles. “I’ve interviewed some of Deloitte’s top 60 clients’ CIOs in order to get a sense of the type of support they need and the environment they operate in. In my research, I’ve come across two personas: one of a very subject matter driven CIO and other of a business enabler,” she observes.

“In terms of the attributes of a successful CIO, you’re looking for someone who can be a facilitator and translate a technical conversation into business language, and connect business and IT,” she adds.

Added to this, Glen says, CIOs also need to be masters of persuasion, to convince their CEOs to buy into their vision, an integral part of facilitation. “Having an understanding of IT is one thing, but understanding business functions is even more important.”

She believes that CIOs need to be people oriented to get the best out of their IT team. “You do need the technical experts, but you also want to understand what drives those people,” she notes.

This insight has also informed how Glen recruits tech talent today. She no longer focuses solely on tech skills, but seeks out people who have studied industrial psychology or engineering with less deep technical knowledge. This diversification of skills makes for a better rounded CIO, she’s discovered.

Where are the women in tech?
According to Glen, as much as the landscape has changed and more women are entering the IT space, there is still some work to be done. “Deloitte is quite a progressive organisation; our CEO, CIO and chairperson designations are all occupied by women. However, I must mention that only three women are CIOs out of Deloitte’s top 60 clients,” she notes.

She points out that one of the biggest reasons there are so few women in the industry, is a lack of women mentors. “How do you convince a young woman to study IT, when she has nobody to look up to?”

The solution, she suggests, is to create a community of female CIOs and a platform where they can share their experiences, and exchange ideas on how to build future female leaders.

The race for top talent
Hybrid working models have done more harm than good, she observes: “IT doesn’t work like the other functions. Some IT work requires you to be at the office, while the other work can be done from home.

“However, coming into the office once a week and sitting in virtual meetings the entire day is also counterproductive: you have to make it purposeful and convince your team that there is value in coming in,” she says.

“In the race for top talent, CIOs need to offer more than comfortable working conditions in order to retain talent. CIOs also need to consider investing into education and training for talent retention.”

With the Covid-19 pandemic came a shortage of tech skills and in responding to this, Glen says that the biggest mistake she has made was investing quite heavily in a large pool of graduates and training them, but struggling to retain them. “Once they had acquired that skill, they became very marketable and it was difficult to get them to stick around,” she says.

“I think not training these graduates in general business etiquette and consulting skills was another mistake I made. Without those skills, they couldn’t be fully certified in the technology required to be delivered.

“I hired these young people and didn’t think beyond certification,” she notes. “There's more to being a tech professional than certification, you have to acquire other skills in order to be successful.”

Innovation and digitisation
Another issue CIOs are currently facing is finding the balance between the spend on maintenance versus the spend on innovation and digitisation. “CIOs have to keep the lights on and ensure that systems are running smoothly, but at the same time, they need to be innovative in order to stay ahead and need to digitise to create cost efficiencies. The conflict comes in when they have to figure out where and want to invest in,” she says.

Glen went on to say that there are many South African companies who are still behind with regards to maintenance and still struggling to get the basics right. Many haven’t started their journey to the cloud yet, she says. Therefore, they still have high on-premises costs and have limited resources for innovation, stifling their competitive advantage.

“CIOs still struggle to get the investment approved from their executive committees. This is because in many organisations, IT is still perceived as a back office function and not as a differentiator,” she notes.

“Back then, you used to measure IT spend as a percentage of revenue, which is still a key measure and I believe this benchmark hampers innovation and digitisation.”

Glen’s wealth of knowledge about the IT industry has led to her greatest accomplishment to date: when she became a partner at Deloitte. She describes it as her proudest moment and an opportunity to be a role model to other women who aspire to become partners one day.

This article was originally published in the first-ever edition of CIO Magazine, which is now available for download here.

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