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Sandra Hutchison: Human resourceful

Read time 2min 30sec
Sandra Hutchison, CIO, AON
Sandra Hutchison, CIO, AON

With an MBA in industrial psychology, Sandra Hutchison started her career in HR in the healthcare industry. It was evident that both people and project management are where her strength is and passion lies. Finding pure HR not challenging enough, she embraced the opportunity to manage cross-company projects, which also involved IT.

She joined Aon South Africa in 2008 to project-manage mergers and acquisitions, but ended up running HR as well as doing general management. In 2012, she spent eight months in the Aon Sydney office managing a radical restructure of the business. She found it 'an interesting experience' but adds: "There are more challenges on the African continent."

On returning to SA, Hutchison took over the role of CIO for Aon SA and Sub-Saharan Africa, with the task of continuing the systems consolidation process of Aon's acquisition of Glenrand M-I-B. This involved reducing the number of systems and cutting the IT spend by 30 percent over a three-year period. As IT decisions are largely dictated to by the global environment, Aon needed a CIO who'd be a business partner, not an IT expert, with the focus on managing the team. "Don't ask me how to build a cloud," Hutchison says. "I have a very capable CTO and I couldn't do my job without him putting the technology behind it."

Hutchison's primary role is to engage with partners to make sure the business is profitable, ensuring best practice in service delivery, infrastructure and line of business systems - which includes finding systems that are right for the region, considering bandwidth and other limitations.

The 'lean and mean approach' means keeping the services going with a reduced work force. "We often forget that IT is a service department," says Hutchison.

When she came in as CIO, service levels and staff morale were at an all-time low, so her priorities were to drastically improve service levels and reenergise the staff.

Visionary CIO awards 2014 - Top 5 finalists

Tshifhiwa Ramuthaga was named the winner, but there were four worthy finalists who share a belief in the power of technology to transform business:
Danny Naidoo - Food for thought
Darryl Thwaits - One hell of a swan song
Robert Boccia - A rapid adopter and change agent
Sandra Hutchison - Human resourceful

"That's the value I brought - I'm able to lead people and bring out the best in them. I've tried to create a team where there is real openness, engagement and honesty, and people respect that. There's a safe space for them to take risks and for a lot of them to just play - we do a lot of fun things together."

The company has seen improvements. "We're cutting the cost of IT, reducing the clutter of systems, our service levels are up, engagement is up and feedback from the business partners is good - it's working," says Hutchison.

This article was first published in Brainstorm magazine. Click here to read the complete article at the Brainstorm website.

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