The five minute CIO: Tim Hynes, incoming CIO at AIB

4 Sep 2015

Tim Hynes, former head of IT (EMEA) at Microsoft and incoming CIO at AIB

“A CIO really should be first and foremost a leader,” says Tim Hynes, former head of IT EMEA at Microsoft, and the incoming CIO at AIB.

During his 25-year career, Hynes has held regional and global leadership positions in blue-chip companies and has led teams spread across 40 countries.

Prior to joining AIB as the bank’s new CIO, Hynes’ last corporate role was as head of IT (EMEA) for Microsoft.

He also has his own strategy consultancy, 3 Pillars Leadership, where he develops strategies with leaders and teams to revolutionise how they compete to win in a digital world.

Hynes will be a keynote speaker at the upcoming IVI Summit, where he will talk about how, in an era of digital disruption, business leaders will need to figure out how to get out of their comfort zones if they want to be agents of change.

“It is about getting out of that comfort zone, crossing lines you never thought you would, because every line you cross increases your zone of knowing.”

Digital transformation is a term we hear more and more about. How do you think CIOs should be spearheading the digital transformation of traditional enterprises?

In my last role at Microsoft, I travelled the world and literally spoke with hundreds of CIOs in different sectors. And there is this kind of clash emerging between the CIOs and the new chief digital officers; neither knows how to deal with the other. Here at AIB, the task that is to be undertaken is significant at both sides of the house. It is a blend, but when the challenge is that big, it is absolutely right that you split it and put the right level of seniority on both tasks. What is interesting – and this is a redline/border-crossing argument – I see a number of CIOs who get very stressed about the fact that there is a CDO, and it is ‘Who is in charge’ and ‘Who is the real leader’. What does that matter?

Before I took this role, I met the CDO of AIB and he’s a super guy, and one of the first things we talked about was we are both here to make the bank successful. We’re both here to make the two sides of the IT coin successful. I’m not here to do his job or vice versa, but we are here to support each other. It is not about protecting your patch.

Once you have that level of leadership maturity, you are set up to succeed. The next challenge for the CDO and CIO is to get the rest of the IT organisation feeling the same way; being okay working more with partners, getting traditional dev guys to be okay with buying versus building… All of those questions need to be tackled and, if you get those things right, you get faster and faster in terms of your ability to deliver.

What are the main points of your approach to managing an IT infrastructure?

First of all, you have to have a different sense of pace. In the old world, it took about two years to build a line of business application. And yet, if I look at the digitisation of experiences, a good example would be how, when travelling, everything has moved from paper tickets to e-tickets. On a recent journey, everything was booked online – parking, car rental, hotel, flight – the only piece of paper I had used in the entire journey had been my passport. That was a fully digitized experience. The BA app that enabled that, I know, only took a few weeks to write. Somebody smart in BA said ‘what’s the basic requirement, and how do we make the experience simple?’ They built that within weeks, not two years, and it is a game-changer in terms of the customer experience.

In terms of managing IT budgets, what are your key thoughts on how CIOs/heads of technology should achieve their goals?

Budgets are one thing, but infrastructure is another. In the old world, if you were going to do a bit of dev on something to create a capability – like a new offering for customers – from an IT point of view, we think servers, bandwidth and capital investment. If you have cloud environment, you can just spin it up because of the economies of scale.

As it gets bigger, ramp it up, but you don’t have to go out and make capital spend just to try something. This speeds up the ability for business functions to try things out.

With that in mind, there is a budget component in cloud. When you go private cloud, there is a bit of sizing required, but just the way it works in terms of balancing of usage you are going to get much better value.

Great IT leaders would try to enable as much as possible a self-service model, where you are only billed for what you use and start to allocate things back to specific capabilities.

One of the challenges in IT is what do you capitalise versus what do you see as an expense. This gives organisations the ability to very easily figure out what they are going to capitalize. It starts to democratise the spend as well.

How much of a CIO’s time should be spent on deep, complex technical issues and how much has been spent at the boardroom table?

In all the talks with CIOs I’ve had around the world, one of the most common questions is, ‘How do I get taken more seriously by the board?’

At a time when digitisation is so critical, you would expect the tech people to be in more critical positions.

CIOs at their core need to ask themselves what is their job. CIOs, unfortunately, are quite often chief ‘infrastructure’ officers. In a world that is going faster, moving to cloud, so much can be done on smartphones, you need to ask, at the core, what your job is.

Our job is to enable business productivity and great customer experiences. The tools in play are just our canvas. As opposed to getting wedded to your infrastructure, or judging your place in the world by how much you spend on something, or people you have, instead judge your value based on whether you deliver business benefits, productivity, better customer experiences. That’s what you are there to do, not just running large server farms.

What are the big trends and challenges you foresee?

If I was to tell someone what they should study, I’d say study robotics. One of the things around disruptive stuff, look at the stuff that everyone is laughing at at the moment. Not long ago, people were laughing at the idea of self-driving cars. That is starting to shape up and it’s a form of robotics. They are sneering at it from inside their comfort zone, and it doesn’t fit their mental model and so they laugh at it.

When Facebook first arrived, people wondered why anyone would want to put their information up on social networks and now they are on it all day.

I think wearables have a fascinating future. Some of the devices are clunky but the business models behind them are quite clever. The devices are one dimensional, but, now with the smartwatches arriving, the thing about disruptive technologies is not the problem they are trying to solve, but trying to create something that doesn’t exist. We might be skeptical about wearables today, but they are going to become more common. The thing about the internet of things and wearables is they could evolve into smart clothing.

What metrics or measurement tools do you use to gauge how well IT is performing?

Here at AIB, my core mission is to keep the bank safe. Not just security, but ensuring everything works. If the ATMs went down, that would cause people a real problem. The chief role of a CIO is to protect the core business.

The CIO really should be first and foremost a leader. You run your organisation as a business, do not run over time or over budget. Make a commitment to deliver, and deliver that.

Leadership is about enabling people, creating the culture that allows people to live outside the comfort zone and disrupt, and that’s when you start adding value.

Tim Hynes will be a keynote speaker at the upcoming IVI Autumn Summit on 17 September at Carton House.

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John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years