CIOs must become key members of executive management teams - Clodagh O'Donnell

Businesses need to place greater value on role to keep pace with technology and consumer driven change

17th February, 2017
Information is power...Clodagh O'Donnell Pic: Getty

What's your name?

Clodagh O’Donnell

What’s your company and describe your role?

I am an independent consultant and interim manager and I work in association with many companies in Ireland and the UK. My role is to work with business leaders, often CIOs, who want to achieve substantial change in their organisation. That might be outsourcing some business processes, implementing new IT systems, reducing costs or improving productivity. Most people know what they want, but often require some help in prioritising actions, gaining momentum and avoiding common problems. I facilitate that through reviews, workshops and coaching. Sometimes I will take on an interim role where I run a project on a client’s behalf.

How long have you held the position?

I have been working independently for the past four years but I worked in consulting roles for most of my career.

What are your day to day responsibilities?

My responsibilities are dictated by whatever project I am on. Typically, I engage directly with the client team, conduct interviews, analyse business performance, make recommendations on improvements, write business cases, design and plan change programmes and oversee and review progress.

The work is varied. Most recently I have been working with a Technology reseller who needed to standardise processes and systems and before that I worked with a financial services client on business process outsourcing.

What is your professional background?

I have a technical background and I hold a Master’s degree in Engineering Design. Prior to my current role, I held CIO roles in RTÉ and Aer Lingus. During my time at RTÉ we undertook a huge transformation moving most of production from analog to digital video. As part of that we launched the RTÉ Player, the Radio Player and High Definition services. At Aer Lingus I had responsibility for transitioning all of infrastructure to two new data centres and moving service to a third party managed service contract. This is something which is happening more and more as organisations try to maintain flexibility and keep internal resources more focussed on projects. Before becoming a CIO, I spent 15 years working in consultancy for multinational organisations including IBM, Fujitsu and PA Consulting Group.

Tell me about yourself away from work?

I am very active and like to spend time outdoors particularly on the golf course, whenever I get a chance. I’ve recently taken up tennis which is much less demanding on a busy schedule and is a great aerobic workout.

Tell us something very few people know about you?

I once played in an All-Ireland schools’ basketball final. Unfortunately, we were beaten by a team from Kerry but I have fond memories of travelling around the country with a close-knit team - and the joy of winning matches.

You are speaking at the 2017 CIO Summit. What are you speaking about?

I am a panellist and we will be discussing what changes in skills, jobs and careers are on the horizon and what it means for CIOs and their organisations. We will be considering how a CIO could develop their team's skills for the digital future and the challenges of retaining talent in a seller's market.

What challenges do you see for your business/sector and the CIOs role with in?

I think that the challenges most CIOs encounter are common across business sectors. My top three are:

- Providing cost effective, flexible and dynamic resources (people, applications and infrastructure) to service the desired rate of business change.

- Keeping pace with technology and consumer driven change while maintaining stable, secure and interoperable business systems.

- Delivering what is perceived as value-add rather than cost to the bottom line.

Where would you like to see the role of the CIO in 10 years’ time?

I would like the CIO to be recognised as key member of every executive management team and a core contributor to the operation of their business. A person who initiates and sponsors, as well as responds to changes in the business environment. Given developments in cloud computing and trends towards managed services and outsourcing, I see the CIO’s role focussing less on infrastructure and more on improving process productivity, straight through automated processes and delivering timely, understandable and intelligent information.

Clodagh O’Donnell will be a panelist at the CIO Summit on March 30 at the AVIVA Stadium. See for tickets and information.

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