Data Center

The Voice of the Next Generation CIO

I recently had the pleasure of speaking at the CIO Summit Event, “Driving an Agenda for Business Success”, organised in the Middle East by IDC. For me, one of the outstanding things about this highly successful conference was meeting and listening to Dr. Arwa Y. Al-Aama, vice mayor for IT affairs at Jeddah Municipality.

Essentially the CIO for Jeddah, Dr. Arwa Y. Al-Aama is responsible for IT-related strategy planning and for assuring that the plan is aligned with the city’s master plan. She also oversees the technological infrastructure, applications, network and communications, budgeting, and resource allocation. You can read a profile of Dr. Arwa Y. Al-Aama on the IDC website.

Dr Arwa Y. Al-Aama is also one of the most senior women working in the Public Sector in Saudi Arabia. It’s not just that she has broken through the glass ceiling, but it’s the insights which she shared at the conference which I thought would be of interest to visitors to this blog. I’ve added a link to a video recording made in part at the CIO Summit, which I think anyone with an interest in the development of the CIO role should watch.

There are three clips included in the 11-minute video: In the first section (starting at around 01.40), Dr Al-Aama tells a little about her role reporting to the Mayor of Jeddah, overseeing and implementing IT strategy and maintaining a Balanced Scorecard for IT.

In the second clip (starting at about 02:53), sees Dr Al-Aama responding to the moderator’s question about how she foresees the role of the CIO evolving in the coming five years. In her answer, Dr Al-Aama says that CIO’s must not just keep up with technology, but must become agents of change within organisations, listening to their internal customers and providing IT services which will empower them to change the world. Making friends with your customers is an important factor. To underline the importance of IT, she refers to the central role which technology played during the Arab Spring.

Finally, in the third clip (starting at 07:15) Dr Al-Aama responds to questions about how to align IT with the business requirement, and how to measure performance and ROI. The answer here is fascinating, because recognising the difficulty of putting a financial value on ROI, they flipped the Balanced Scorecard upside-down so that Customer Satisfaction became the most important metric for success. As a result, the Municipality runs ongoing, online research to ensure that the department continues to meet its customer’s needs.

During this final clip, Dr Al-Aama also sets out how budgets are set and signed off, how initiatives are prioritised against the backdrop of a wider strategy for the Municipality, and the benefits of various government departments not working in silos.

I’m grateful to IDC for releasing the footage of the Doctor to me so that I could put this video together. And I’m grateful for the cooperation of Jeddah Municipality and, of-course, Dr Al-Aama in this production. I really hope that you find her voice as inspirational as I do – please let me have any comments or feedback about her views on the role of the CIO as I’m sure it’s a subject that’s set to roll and roll.

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