Women dominate 2020 New Zealand CIO Awards

Published on the 25/11/2020 | Written by Heather Wright

And the winners are…

Female leaders dominated in last night’s New Zealand CIO Awards, with all three individual awards going to women, in a night which also saw IRD, Southern Cross Health Society, Te Hiku Media and Fidelity Life crowned winners.

The annual awards, run by IDC and Conferenz, saw Sally Copland, Countdown’s general manager of digital, take out the coveted CIO of the Year 2020. Frances Valintine was recognised for her Outstanding Contribution to Technology and Business in New Zealand; and Margaret Harris, CIO of ContainerCo, took out the award for Emerging ICT Leader of the Year 2020.

The awards were symbolic of a new diversity emerging in the tech sector, with several award recipients acknowledging the importance of culture and diversity in their teams as a factor in their success.

This year’s glittering awards ceremony – separated from its usual CIO Summit partner thanks to Covid ­– saw seven awards presented in acknowledgement of individuals and teams showing leadership, innovation and foresight in their contribution to ICT and business.

“Other businesses and CIO’s can emulate their successes, using innovation and a culture of challenging the status quo, for a rapid return to growth.”

The hotly contested CIO of the Year category saw Copland up against Contact CIO Iain Gauld, Z Energy chief digital officer Mandy Simpson; Auckland Council director ICT Mark Denvir and Canterbury District Health Board and West Coast District Health Board chief digital officer Stella Ward.

Copland’s win (pictured celebrating with her team) comes on the back of the creation of the supermarket’s digital and data driven portfolio, Countdown X, which brings together e-commerce, loyalty, direct marketing and IT, and a ‘significant’ bolstering of internal digital tech capabilities for the company.

Valintine was recognised for her 20+ years of work helping New Zealand upskill for emerging technologies, including helping establish formal qualifications and career paths in 3D animation, digital media, visual effects and game development the 2013 creation of The Mind Lab to upskill teachers for emerging digital technologies and advising New Zealand businesses on digital transformation.

“Her immense impact on so many New Zealand businesses, students and professionals make her an exemplary recipient for this year’s award,” IDC and Conferenz say.

Inland Revenue beat out Countdown and PlaceMakers to take out the Business Transformation through Digital and IT award, on the back of its multi-stage digital transformation, which has included the deployment of the START platform for integration of all tax and social policy products – something deemed a ‘world first’ for a revenue organisation.

The organisation was also a recent winner in IDC’s Australia and New Zealand Digital Transformation Awards, where it took out the 2020 Information Visionary for Australia and New Zealand and the 2020 Operating Model Master for Australia and New Zealand.

Its work to conserve the Māori language saw Te Reo Irirangi o Te Hiku o Te Ika, part of Northland Maori radio collective Te Hiku Media, take out the award for Community Tech Champions. Its long-running Papa Reo research program to teach computers te reo Māori aims to develop a multilingual platform for natural language processing and machine learning tools, with a focus on making AI and ML language processing tools available for Māori and Pasifika languages.

The implementation of agile working and culture programmes to encourage collaboration and innovation, along with personalised talent management programme with access to external coaches, the encouraging of volunteer work, flexible working  and an Accessibility Tick all helped garner insurer Fidelity Life the award for Best ICT Team Culture.

Southern Cross Health Society took out the new Sustainability through Technology award, which recognises achievement of organisations which have successfully planned and executed a sustainability initiative.

In Southern Cross’ case, that initiative revolved around Covid-19, with the organisation pledging $50 million to help customers through the pandemic. Each member received a credit as a percentage of their premium, and members who lost work were offered policy freezes. A strong digital policy enabled Southern Cross Health Society to deliver this promise quickly and effectively, maintaining strong customer relationships, IDC says.

Louise Francis, Country Manager of IDC New Zealand, says in a year of ‘epic challenges’ this year’s winners and finalists elevated the view of what the face of digital leadership looks like in New Zealand.

“The calibre of entries this year was exceptional. Each one provides many examples of how other businesses and CIO’s can emulate their successes, using innovation and a culture of challenging the status quo, to tackle the massive disruptions of today for a rapid return to growth tomorrow.”

For pictures of all the winners click here (Conferenz Facebook album).

And the full list of winners and finalists is:

CIO of the Year 2020 – Sponsored by CompTIA
Winner: Sally Copland, General Manager – Digital, Countdown


  • Iain Gauld, CIO, Contact
  • Mandy Simpson, Chief Digital Officer, Z Energy
  • Mark Denvir, Director ICT, Auckland Council
  • Stella Ward, Chief Digital Officer, Canterbury District Health Board and West Coast District Heath Board

Outstanding Contribution to Technology and Business in New Zealand – Sponsored by Sharp
Recipient – Frances Valintine

Emerging ICT Leader of the Year 2020 – Sponsored by 2degrees
Winner: Dr Margaret Harris, CIO, ContainerCo


  • Chris Marsh, Group Infrastructure Manager, Freightways
  • Mo Chalabi, Digital Consultant, Beca

Sustainability through Technology – Sponsored by Younity
Winner: Southern Cross Health Society


  • Z Energy
  • Genesis Energy
  • Tonkin + Taylor

Community Tech Champions – Sponsored by Juniper Networks
Winner: Te Reo Irirangi o Te Hiku o Te Ika


  • Manaaki powered by Indigo
  • The Pam Fergusson Charitable Trust

Best ICT Team Culture – Sponsored by RWA Technology People
Winner: Fidelity Life


  • Counties Manukau Health
  • Otago Polytechnic
  • Stats NZ Tatauranga Aotearoa
  • Vocus

Business Transformation through Digital and IT – Sponsored by ClearPoint
Winner: New Zealand Inland Revenue


  • Countdown
  • PlaceMakers

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