Practical IT strategy development - A great conversation with Rick Vosila - CIO Chubb Australia

by Marco Tapia

in management-it-consulting,

June 13, 2011


Practical IT strategy development

June 10, 2011


Rick Vosila, CIO, Chubb Australasia


Developing, implementing and maintaining IT strategies have been major challenges for many CIOs. There are numerous methodologies and approaches. Academia and top consulting firms are not short of ideas and approaches including SWOT analysis, GE Planning Grid, BCG Growth-Share matrix, Porter’s 5 Forces, customer focus, product focus, marketing focus, etc.

One CIO that has had significant experience in developing IT strategic plans for numerous companies is Rick Vosila, currently the CIO for Chubb Australasia – A UTC Fire & Security Company. Chubb ( is Australia’s leading provider of security and fire safety solutions, protecting people, property and assets. Rick’s IT function is responsible for the support of some 2,500 users between 72 sites in Australia and 16 in New Zealand.

Rick has a very practical approach to IT strategy development based on the “Hax methodology” (Strategy Concept and Process: A Pragmatic Approach by Arnold Hax and Nicolas Majluf). Rick has applied this methodology and approach at companies such as Unilever Australia and S.E. Asia, Chubb, HPM Group and others.

Rick’s believes that IT often tends to be managed in a much more complicated way that what really is required. Many IT departments buy everything they can, resulting on a plethora of systems and tools that are often not used. Quick fixes are used too many times and technology is thrown at a problem without considering the people, processes, policies and strategy.

MT: How do you start the development of the strategic plan using your approach?

In essence, my approach includes to firstly clearly understanding the mission of the firm, the company’s strategic direction and the detailed needs of the business. This is followed by a detailed analysis of the external environment, characterised by the opportunities and threats presented by competitors, suppliers and customers. Also, an important part of my approach is to do a detailed scan of the internal capabilities, strengths, and weaknesses.

CIO’s book shelfs are littered with strategies that never get properly implemented. So the ‘how to implement the strategy’ section is as important as the strategy itself.

I develop a multiyear implementation program (ideally three years) then I break it down in specific areas such as Infrastructure, Networks, Applications, Resources, etc and then, for each area, develop a specific and detailed action program.

MT: What is the role (if any) of IT Steering Committees(SCOMs)

I am a strong supporter of IT SCOMs who should meet monthly and review the strategy implementation, assign resources, and once a year, review the overall IT strategy for alignment to the business.

MT: What is the impact and how would you consider the introduction of new technologies such as iPad, social networking and the emergence of new competitors with new technological approaches?

The strategy is not a rule book but a direction on how to deploy capital and resources. It needs at the end to be realigned if the firm believes that those new elements have a strategic impact on the business and its results. A company’s IT SCOM needs to be aware of those new elements and if a change of direction is warranted, realign the strategy to do so. Many times, there is no strategic impact on the firm or its IT, and they may just be a minor operational adjustment that can be slotted in at the right time.

In terms of new entrants and other significant events such as an economic downturn, the company and the IT strategy needs to be agile enough to rapidly react and adjust to those events.

MT: How does the IT strategy need to be communicated to the organisation?

It needs to be communicated regularly to the executive team, IT senior staff and most importantly, business managers.

MT: What is your view of corporations such as Chubb doing IT research? How should it be done and what are the objectives that R&D needs to follow?

R&D should have a clear objective and be outcomes focussed. Research for research’s sake is not justifiable these days in most commercial enterprises, so focussed Proof of Concept exercises is what I endorse in my business. These Proof of Concept projects can serve all the requirements of R&D, but are directed at a specific problem or opportunity. Once the concept has been proven, a much better case can be built for a deployment.

MT: How does R&D need to fit the IT strategy?

In our role as CIO’s we must constantly scan the market and be in tune with how other organisations are leveraging ICT to transform their businesses. The CIO then needs to interpret that and draw relevance to the organisation’s needs, and pursue the opportunity in that light. From that point, the technologies in scope need to be assessed against the current standards employed, and decisions made about selection, based on that – or change the strategy to suit the new opportunity.

Marco Tapia is PicNet’s Managing Director He is a former CIO with broad national and international experience and an enthusiastic supporter of Australian IT innovation

Originally published in Rust Report CIO’s Corner  10th June 2011