HEAD HONCHO: Qld seeks CIO “champion”


For the second time in three years, the Queensland State Government has flagged plans to significantly enhance the powers of its whole of government chief information officer role, with Premier Anna Bligh today noting it would shortly start recruiting for a new executive to take on a drastically expanded brief.

Previously, the state has had a succession of chief information officers sitting within the Department of Public Works, with the role currently held by Mal Grierson, who was formerly also the department’s Director-General. It has previously been held by Alan Chapman and Peter Grant.

In July 2008, Queensland flagged plans to expand the office of the state CIO, with then-ICT Minister Robert Schwarten (who has since retired) and Bligh herself at the time noting that the CIO role needed more authority. However, the move didn’t stop a series of IT disasters from rocking the State Government over the succeeding years.

The most public of these has been the Queensland Health payroll debacle, which resulted in thousands of public sector health workers going without pay after the department’s upgrade to a new SAP-based payroll system was botched, but many of the state’s other major IT projects have also overrun their budget and been delayed.

Speaking to a joint luncheon in Brisbane today organised by the Australian Computer Society and the Australian Information Industry Association, Bligh revealed Queensland would shortly commence the hiring process for a new state CIO — and one with the level of authority traditionally accorded to the head of a government department.

“We have a resolve to strengthen and to elevate that role,” Bligh said. “What we’ll be doing is to create a Queensland Government CIO position and office.”

The Premier noted the new CIO role would report directly to ICT Minister Simon Finn — instead of to the head of the Department of Public Works — and would be the first CIO role in Australia to sit at a CEO level in the government hierarchy, effectively making them the equal of the heads of major government departments.

This “autonomy”, with the office of the CIO being an independent body, would leave to a heightened ability to drive outcomes, according to Bligh. And the new CIO would also provide regular advice to Cabinet — effectively, the highest level within the Queensland Government.

The new CIO would be responsible for a number of areas of government activity, Bligh said, ranging from ICT program and project management, planning, and the implementation of the state’s overarching ‘Towards Q2’ technology strategy. Also under the CIO’s remit would be enterprise IT architecture, liaising with the industry and even keeping an eye on the state’s troubled shared services policy.

However, the new position won’t oversee Queensland’s shared services approach alone — with the Director-General of the Department of Public Works, Natalie MacDonald, to continue to have responsibility for Queensland’s new shared services division, formed from the ashes of its CITEC organisation, among others.

Bligh said the new CIO role would be advertised this week, with a selection process to be conducted with industry involvement. “Friends, I want your involvement in helping to establish a new policy paradigm,” the Premier said.

“We intend to install a champion for your industry.”

Image credit: David Jackmanson, Creative Commons