Kevin Angland

IAG

cio-nz-kevin-angland.pngKevin Angland, CIO of IAG New Zealand and 2014 New Zealand CIO of the Year,believes in looking for the positives in any situation. Like most successful CIOs he sees the glass as half full, and consequently he tends to look for solutions and actions that will lead to positive results.

Of course it takes more than being an optimist to reach the position of CIO. It also takes good planning, which is why Kevin advises any aspiring CIO to start with the end in mind. As he says, “Until you know what the end is, and understand it, how do you know that what you are about to do will deliver the outcome you need? Whether that’s standing up and presenting to 350 IT staff, or delivering an IT project, if you don’t know your goal you don’t know the best way to get there.”

He also says you must be patient. “I see a lot of people who would like to be CIO in a short timeframe,” he says. “My view is you shouldn’t be in a rush to get there. To be successful you need to give yourself time to gain the necessary breadth and depth of experience. It takes two or three steps to get there in a planned approach.”

In terms of achieving his own career goal, Kevin became CIO two and a half years ago.As is the case for most CIOs, his career path to the top IT job was broad. He spent a lot of time working inthe insurance and financial services sector, firstly in business delivery roles, then business project roles, and finally project IT roles.

After moving into the IT function, he felt that aspiring to CIO was both a worthy goal and something he had a good natural fit for. As Kevin explains, “I quickly realised that I had the skills and capabilities to interact and communicate both ways; by that I mean I could understand and communicate the business perspective to the IT community and I could understand and communicate the IT perspective to the business community. I realised I was a good interface between business strategy and IT strategy. Importantly, I enjoyed it. So the light went on and I realised CIO was the obvious goal to aspire to.”

According to Kevin, this ability to translate between IT and business is critical for any aspiring CIO. “If I look at what’s required of a CIO, business acumen is necessary if you are to do the role justice. Unless you are CIO of a software development company, you will need an understanding and empathy for business strategy and knowledge of how IT can bring that to life.”

It’s a rare breed of IT professional who has this knowledge though. It’s also rare for IT professionals to possess people management skills, which are just as critical to a CIO’s success as business acumen. “There’s never an absence of technical skills in an IT shop,” says Kevin. “Soft skills are the differentiator. There aren’t too many people who have both solid technical skills and people skills. Those who have both stand out.”

That’s why he advises any aspiring CIO to step outside IT for a time to develop both your business acumen and your people sills. “The technical skills you acquire through the nature of the work,” he says. “They aren’t imperative for a CIO. But aspiring CIOs need the ability to establish and sustain relationships at all levels of the organisation.

“At IAG we have solid strategic relationships with the people who take insurance out to our customers. We are moving to a phone and internet based preference driven by our customers. So to successfully move our business to be fully digital we need to work hand-in-hand with our business colleagues.”

Working closely with the business is one of the best things about being CIO, says Kevin. “Technology has become the heartbeat of organisations and how they work. IT is at the heart of everything that gets done. Depending on the organisation you’re in, if there’s a good commitment to growing the business and innovation, you’ll be involved in some challenging and motivating work.”

According to Kevin, there’s another great benefit of the top IT job. As he says, “I look at some of the new gadgets that come across my desk and I get to try them before anyone else!”

Education

Kevin completed his MBA 11 years ago. One of the papers he excelled at focused on systems thinking and understanding business processes. “I realised I had a good understanding of systems thinking and business processes. I felt I had a good understanding of how technology can bring business processes to life.

When he made the transition from project roles into IT, he completed a Diploma in Information Systems Management. “In aspiring to be CIO, I recognised I’dpossibly have to step out of my current organisation. I thought about what I’d look for if I was a hiring manager, and if I looked at my CV I’d see no IT qualifications there.”

Responsibilities outside IT

Kevin is a certified workplace coach. He is heavily involved in IAG’s internal coaching program, which he says he really enjoys. “It’s not about your day job – it’s about helping people to identify and achieve person goals.”

He’s also Program Sponsor for IAG’s graduate recruitment program. While the program has a reasonably heavy IT element, it’s an enterprise wide program. In this role, he sees first-hand the dearth of female IT graduates coming out of our universities, which he calls “a huge problem”. He says, “I look at the people who apply and are interviewed for our graduate program and most of them are male. If I was to walk into the classroom of any university teaching a technology subject, I suspect most of the students would be male. We are failing somewhere to make IT attractive enough to young women.

Work/life balance

Long hours are the norm for many CIOs, but Kevin successfully balances his work and personal commitments. According to him, there are two elements that go into creating a successful work/life balance. “A lot of it has to do with the organisation you work for and what’s accepted as the norm there. Secondly, it comes down to decisions and priorities you make as an individual. There are weeks where I do long hours, but I try to do it in a way that avoids impacting on my life outside work. Equally there are other weeks where I make family life the priority if it needs to be. I work for an organisation where I can do that. So it comes down to the culture of the organisation you work for and the commitments you are prepared to make as an individual.”

The IT skills shortage

When asked to nominate his greatest professional challenge for the next 12 months, Kevin says it is attracting and securing top talent. “I think the biggest challenge we’ll face falls under the label of ‘war for talent’. At IAG we have a significant change agenda we are about to step into and the biggest single factor that will determine our success will be our ability to attract and retain talent. There are a number of competitors all looking to build their IT capability.”

Given his tendency to look for solutions in any situation and plan well, we’re confident that this is a challenge he’ll overcome.