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A well-travelled CIO

Nadia Cameron | Jan. 21, 2015
How Qantas’ tech chief, Luc Hennekens, is ensuring the airline’s IT function is at the forefront of business innovation.

Putting a stamp on the CIO role
While it's inevitable any new CIO will bring an individual flair to the role, Hennekens tells CIO it's important to be mindful of change for change's sake.

"The first thing is not to replace strategy with something else and yank the organisation in another direction, unless it's completely wrong," he claims.

"Most IT strategies are not that different; the fundamentals are always in there. We are taking our costs to benchmark levels, which means taking out all costs that aren't adding any value. Any good business needs to do that."

Employee engagement is another strategic pillar, as is operational excellence, especially given the airline's dependence on IT.

"Innovation and technology leadership are also going to be there, so the strategy is not by itself a big surprise, it's how you execute it," Hennekens continues.

"The first two years were really about getting the basics in place. The phase we're in now is very much about taking IT from an organisation that looks after the technology, to an organisation that drives business growth."

With 90 per cent of IT capability outsourced, Hennekens is doing this through two metrics: Customer experience and bottom-line improvement.

"You have to shift the organisation away from the intricacies and complexities of managing technology, and start with 'what do we want to get out of that technology and how it benefits our business and our customer'," he says.

"It's easy to say that, but you have to review your outsourcing agreements at a contractual, governance and relationship level. It also means you have to review your organisational structure, creating completely different roles.

It means getting IT staff around every leadership table of every leadership team in the business, which we have also done. And that requires having the right people, because you don't want to put a pure technologist in that position.

"We've kicked off a number of other transformational activities that really get the IT organisation to think differently about its role in the business, and to get the business to think differently about the opportunities technology brings."

Cost is certainly a huge driver. Qantas has been through a tumultuous few years, burdened with significant financial losses and inefficiencies.

As a result, the airline is slashing $2 billion from its operating costs and is cutting 5000 jobs, a decision that has also affected the IT function.

When asked about the impetus to cut costs versus being innovative, Hennekens argues the two support each other.

Not only is IT on track to achieve its goal of getting spending levels to industry benchmarks, it's also adopting a smarter approach to technology optimisation, he claims.

 

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