Michael Vanderheide is the Chief Executive at CenITex. Michael’s professional experience is a mix of both public and private sectors, with organisations including Qantas, Victoria Police and ActewAGL, in senior roles in the fields of IT and Human Resources. In an interview with Connect Intelligence, he shares how CenITex has transformed its image and what the next challenge for leaders will be.
Q: How would you describe your leadership strategy?
It’s not so much a leadership “strategy” as it is “strategies”, since my approach has varied depending on what the organisation needs. When I started at CenITex, we were in bad shape financially, had a poor reputation for service availability and there was low staff morale. At that time, my approach was quite directive, because we had specific problems to solve. During the subsequent two years of a sale process, when CenITex was on the market, it was much more about nurturing staff and maintaining focus on the day to day business. With abandonment of the sale process in 2015, it’s very much been about driving a shift from introspectivity, to a keen focus on our customers and the delivery of contemporary services.
Q: Can you tell us about a turning point in your career? What did you learn from this experience?
Leading CenITex while it was on the market has probably been the biggest challenge I’ve faced. Without knowing how long the sale process would last or what the outcome would be, it was impossible to paint a picture of the future for staff. There were many lessons, but key among them was the importance of sharing information, even if the whole story wasn’t clear, and trusting in the innate resilience of the people who make up this organisation.
Q: How has CenITex restored and transformed its image and reputation?
A work in progress! The first step was to build confidence in the reliability of our services through a big emphasis on refresh of aged kit, staff training and the introduction of process (ITIL played a key role). With service availability largely in hand, we’ve turned now to a focus on customer centricity – among many other things, placing staff on customer sites, adding executives drawn from our customer base to our Board and establishing customer-led forums to set our priorities.
Q: What has been the greatest challenge in doing this?
We spent so much time and so much energy on fixing our technologies and our processes, that it’s been a real challenge to make the case for change. What we had been doing for so long seemed to be working, but to stay relevant, we need to shift our focus up and out to our customers.
Q; What do you think the next big challenges from a leadership perspective will be?
The next big challenge is recognising that with the advent of cloud based services, our customers can be (and often are) ahead of us on the learning curve. We need to find a way to capture what they know and are doing for the benefit of our wider customer base while managing not to get in the way. It’s a new world and as always, an exciting time to be in IT.
Michael Vanderheide, Chief Executive, CenITex will be expanding on this at GOV CIO Forum 2018 – 13 & 14 February – Canberra, Australia.