Technology Article 3: Navigating Complexity and Strategising, Scanning, and Executing

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Within large matrix organisations, the task of strategising, scanning, and executing Digital and Technology initiatives can be complex. This blog explores the challenges and opportunities that arise in such organisations, focusing on the role of the business unit Digital and Technology Sponsor in setting technology strategy, scanning for new solutions, and ensuring effective execution within the business unit, and how they can collaborate effectively with Group Chief Technology Officers or Chief Project Officers.


Understanding the Organisational Context


Large multinational mining businesses often operate within a complex functional structure as part of a global, multinational hybrid matrix organisation. At the group level, a Chief Technology Officer (CTO) oversees operational technology development, while a Chief Information Officer (CIO) manages information and enterprise technology. Strategic decisions regarding technology initiatives are made collectively by the CTO and CIO on behalf of the integrated businesses within the Group. These are often pushed down to business units, with varying degrees of success.


The Challenge of Integration


Within any mining company, different business units may vary in their maturity and alignment with the operating model. Some units may lack a dedicated CTO or CIO role, and the responsibility of setting the technology strategy falls on business unit leaders or the designated Digital and Technology Sponsor. The Sponsor plays a critical role in driving the technology strategy by overseeing the scanning and evaluation of potential new technologies, monitoring progress, and ensuring value-based decisions are made within constraints.


Navigating Complexity and Driving Value


In a large matrix organisation, the absence of a dedicated CTO or CIO role for individual business units poses challenges. However, I propose the appointment of a Digital and Technology Sponsor within the business unit, who holds a key position in strategically driving technology initiatives within the specific business unit. By collaborating closely with the Group CTO, the Sponsor can align technology initiatives with the organisation’s broader, strategic objectives. Through continuous scanning for new technologies and digital solutions, the business unit can remain innovative and seize opportunities to drive value, as well as contribute to the broader Group development, providing an “on the ground” perspective.


Importance of Strategic Frameworks and Program Management


To steer business units in the right direction, strategic frameworks and program management play vital roles. The Digital and Technology Sponsor, in partnership with the Enterprise Project Management Office, ensures that the business unit’s technology strategy aligns with the overall organizational goals. By adopting program management principles, the Sponsor ensures effective execution of technology initiatives. Strategic frameworks provide a structured approach for decision-making, resource allocation, and risk management, allowing the Sponsor to navigate complexity, collaborate with Group and drive value. Ensuring the right business, or operating, model is in place is also key, and I will talk about the ambidextrous business model, and others, in a future article.


Ensuring Long-term Sustainability and the License to Operate


The role of the Digital and Technology Sponsor extends beyond navigating complexity and driving technology initiatives. It is instrumental in shaping the long-term strategy for sustainability and obtaining and maintaining the license to operate. By integrating sustainability considerations into the technology strategy, the Sponsor can contribute to environmental responsibility and social consciousness.


The Sponsor scans for technologies that promote energy efficiency, reduce emissions, and minimise the ecological footprint. Collaborating with environmental, social, and governance (ESG) teams, they incorporate sustainability criteria into technology decision-making. By prioritising community engagement and social responsibility, the Sponsor fosters positive relationships with stakeholders, enhances transparency, and creates shared value.


Risks of not having a dedicated CTO within the business units


The absence of a dedicated CTO within the business units brings certain risks


·      Lack of Strategic Technology Direction Without a dedicated CTO, units may lack a cohesive and forward-thinking technology strategy, hindering innovation and growth.


·      Limited Technology Expertise The absence of a CTO may lead to a gap in technical guidance, hampering optimal technology solutions.


·      Inefficient Technology Integration Integrating technology across units can be complex. A dedicated CTO ensures smooth coordination, efficiency, and synergies.


·      Ineffective Technology Governance Without a dedicated CTO, governance structures and processes may be inadequate, increasing technology-related risks.


·      Missed Opportunities for Innovation A dedicated CTO identifies emerging technologies and drives innovation. Without one, units may miss out on leveraging disruptive technologies for competitive advantage.


Mitigating the Risks


To mitigate the risks associated with the absence of a dedicated CTO, business units can adopt several strategies


·      Leverage External Expertise Engage external technology consultants or advisors to provide insights and guidance.


·      Strengthen Collaboration Foster collaboration among units to share best practices and innovative ideas.


·      Enhance Technical Capabilities Invest in developing the technical capabilities of the existing workforce.


·      Leverage Group-level Support Engage with the Group CTO and Enterprise Project Management Office for support and expertise.




Navigating complexity within a large matrix organisation requires a strategic approach to technology. In the absence of a dedicated CTO or CIO role, the Digital and Technology Sponsor takes on the responsibility of setting the technology strategy, scanning for new solutions, and ensuring effective execution within the business unit. By incorporating sustainability considerations, collaborating with ESG teams, and prioritising community engagement, the Sponsor drives positive environmental and social outcomes while ensuring long-term success. With careful planning, collaboration, and adherence to strategic frameworks, the business units can successfully navigate complexity, mitigate risks, and drive value through well-executed digital initiatives.


Next time I talk about whether mining organisations are ready for a sustainable future, from a digital and technology perspective.


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