Since my last update in June 2023, there have been 26 Chief Information Officer (CIO) or equivalent appointments in the ASX300, four of which have been internal and eight of which are female. For representation in the ASX300, 15% of CIOs or equivalent are female which lags international counterparts, with 25% in the FTSE100 and 28% in the Fortune500.

The current state of the technology market is trending towards cost mitigation and merely keeping the lights on. The market for talent has “cooled” from unsustainable to competitive, and from our perspective, it is best described as right-sizing rather than down-sizing of most technology teams, as on aggregate, most teams are considerably larger than pre-covid. Executives are holding tight for key talent, and those with experience also are exerting due diligence to ensure they’re not the “last in and first out”, should the macro environment change.

Valuations have been hit and there has been M&A activity in the broader Technology ecosystem including Mr Yum and me&u, Woolworths’ acquisition of MilkRun, Telstra’s acquisition of Versent and Atlassian’s acquisition of AirTrack.

If the pandemic highlighted the concern for cyber security, 2023 will be remembered for ChatGPT, large language models and Generative AI. Most in technology would know these trends have been debated and discussed for over a decade.

Regardless of whether this will be another hype cycle, it has reinvigorated interest from executives and customers outside of technology. Despite the increased curiosity, Australia continues to be laggards with our international counterparts with innovation, after being rated third worst of 64 countries regarding entrepreneurship by the World Competitiveness Report.

Despite the “doom and gloom”, technology leaders and experienced start-up founders have expressed that it is a great time to build. Innovation often occurs in cost-constrained conditions, and the era of zero interest rates and cheap capital has instilled a culture of indulgence and questionable business propositions.

Although Boards have taken a great interest in cyber security, seasoned CIOs and equivalents have expressed the lack of expertise and diversity from their Boards to effectively challenge and add value to their technology strategy. Conversely, while an obvious point to some, “commercial savvy” is a prerequisite for technology leadership and is a common frustration expressed by those outside the technology and digital ecosystem.

Most of the challenges in technology today are not technological. Understanding the customer, customer experience and omnichannel requires changed ways of working and thinking. In our discussions with clients, there is yet to be a standard approach as to who will bridge the gap between business and IT strategy, and it is becoming increasingly more challenging as the role of technology spans from business-run functions such as modernisation, rationalisation, and cyber security to new growth channels and innovation. In some instances, this has led to a realignment of technology to report under operations, marketing, and finance.

Notwithstanding the diversity challenges, finding those who can navigate the expanding demands of technology leadership is proving to be a consistent pain point. In the domestic market, identifying a single technology executive or “unicorn” who possesses the technical, strategic, and commercial savvy, to balance risk and evangelise the “art of the possible”, and deliver, whilst engaging across the organisation and taking their organisation on the journey is a mammoth ask.

In response, some of our clients have begun proactively engaging the market well in advance, to ensure business continuity, diversity and cultural fit. If you’d like to hear more about how Blenheim Partners are supporting our clients in attracting current and emerging leaders to realise the true benefits of technology and digital for their organisations, contact us.

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