The CIO tamer

In the first of an exclusive two-part series, IT executive development specialist Brinley Platts reveals his secrets for CIOs looking to best leverage their personal and business growth.

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By  Imthishan Giado Published  February 22, 2009

In the first of an exclusive two-part series, IT executive development specialist Brinley Platts reveals his secrets for CIOs looking to best leverage their personal and business growth.

How would you describe the early days of IT in the region?

I started at the end of the 1970s and I've been in the development of people in IT for my whole career. My first role was to work with career entry training programmes.

The reason I used to come to Dubai and the rest of the Gulf was because we had a series of partners back then. We opened some of the first career entry programming schools in the Gulf.

The worry will come if strategic projects are abandoned or delayed that really ought to go ahead because of the relative weakness of IT leadership compared with other executive directors. There is the danger of that – I don’t just mean here, I mean everywhere. That is the main worry; that the medium to long term future gets impaired

Even back then, there was quite a strong desire to indigenise the population. We were working with a lot of bright young managers from the Rashid Career Starters, as well people from the police and the military.

Big organisations were definitely into computers but they were very dependant upon foreign skills. What we were trying to do - and we didn't just do it here, we did it in Malaysia, Singapore and India - was to try and get career entry programmes kicked off properly.

I like to think that the work that we started then was partly responsible for what happened subsequently. It would be interesting for me personally because people who came through our programmes in the 1980s are now in very senior roles in well-known large organisations.

Which countries stood out from the pack?

There was a lot of activity in Kuwait. In terms of my involvement down there, it was definitely Dubai and Kuwait. During the five years I was coming here, the centre of focus of our business moved from Dubai to Abu Dhabi. That was just because that was where there was a lot of interest in the career entry work.

For lots of reasons that are still true today, Dubai was the most popular destination for expats. There was an intention that Dubai would become a hub for training and development, certainly for the lower Gulf.

After being away for the better part of a decade, what sort of changes do you anticipate in the local CIO community?

I'm expecting that there will be a much stronger local representation in the CIO community now. Of the expatriates who are in senior posts, I'm expecting that they will have been here for a long time. What I'm expecting is that there will be more of a commitment to the country. 20-odd years ago, it was a place you might come on a contract for two or three years and then leave.

The whole area was trading on the oil revenues and the tax-free status so that the people would come and they wouldn't want to stay. I would think that that's now changed.

What sort of challenges exists for regional CIOs in the current economic climate?

The obvious problem is with the lack of budget. Money is going to become very scarce, investment is going to have to be very carefully evaluated which is good. A lot of the professional effectiveness measures that people will be forced to do are things they should have been doing anyway. To some extent, there might be a boost in terms of professionalism and leadership management.

The worry will come if strategic projects are abandoned or delayed that really ought to go ahead because of the relative weakness of IT leadership compared with other executive directors. There is the danger of that - I don't just mean here, I mean everywhere. That is the main worry; that the medium to long term future gets impaired.

Will enterprises adopt a short-term slash-and-burn approach?

It's the typical organisational reaction. One of the big differences from 20 years ago is that the computing area of a large organisation was making so many economies for the business that it was not affected by the recession.

In the 1990s, that all changed. If budgets have to be cut by 20% across the business, well that's true for IT as well.

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