Rodriguez exits as NSW cans CIO role


Reclusive New South Wales whole of government chief information officer Emmanuel Rodriguez (pictured) will leave his post on the wings of a wide-ranging restructure within the State Government which will see his office devolved into the Department of Technology, Services and Administration super-agency.

In a statement, a spokesperson for the DSTA confirmed the CIO’s departure, first reported by the Financial Review online on Friday afternoon.

The department’s statement also detailed an associated wide-ranging overhaul of the state’s technology governance structure, which had previously been shared between Rodriguez’ Government Chief Information Office, the DSTA itself, the Executive Council of agency CIOs and even shared services agency ServiceFirst.

“In recognition of the importance of this matter, the director general, DSTA will in due course be assuming the role of the Government chief information officer,” the statement said. “Emmanuel Rodriguez is leaving DSTA and the director general would like to thank him for his efforts over the past three years.”

The restructure — and an associated new ICT strategy — stems from the delivery of a review delivered to the DSTA and Treasury late this year. It is expected that the document is the review the state commissioned consulting firm Ernst & Young to carry out earlier this year of the government’s existing People First ICT strategy.

In general, the department said, the report found that existing ICT policy and strategy functions should be separated from ICT operations and consolidated under a separate group within the DSTA. In practice, this will mean:

  • The creation of an “ICT control board” including an independent chair and “high-level representation”
  • The creation of an “ICT advisory panel” including “expert” industry representation
  • The decommissioning of the CIO Executive Council, and its replacement with a “CIO Executive Network” representing super-agencies — instead of representatives from most of the larger independent agencies.
  • A “realignment” of staff between policy and operations functions

According to the statement, the review recommends the Government’s new ICT strategy focus on a number of key priorities, including blueprints and standards, ICT alignment with existing government programs, innovation and emerging technology, information security management, solution consolidation, procurement refinement, capability development and resource management, financial management and culture and communications.

However, the Government has only given itself a short time to get the restructure done before the next state election in early 2011 (which the incumbent Labor government is expected to lose), with the DSTA stating it envisaged the transition to the new operating mode would be finalised by the end of March next year.

People First and the departure
The People First project — first unveiled in July 2006 under Rodriguez’ predecessor, Paul Edgecumbe, had the goal of replacing much of the state’s aging IT infrastructure.

“Our core agency systems were put in many many years ago and require serious new investment. So that’s patient management, student managment, police management, licensing systems … all require replacement,” said Edgecumbe at the time. And the state also planned to reap some $565 million in savings from the effort. Rodriguez took over the program upon his appointment in October 2007 after Edgecumbe’s resignation in May that year.

However, the state has appeared to change its focus in terms of IT consolidation several times over the past several years.

In September 2008, for example, NSW quietly created a new shared services agency — ServiceFirst — that was slated to provide centralised IT services to a large number of departments and agencies. And the Department of Services, Technology and Administration has only itself been created over the past several years.

It also remains unclear to what extent People First has delivered on its initial promises. In 2008 Gartner Research vice president Richard Harris told the Financial Review the program’s track hadn’t been painted out clearly or transparently.

Rodriguez himself has remained absent from the public limelight for almost his entire tenure leading the project, repeatedly refusing interviews and requests for comment on matters relating to State Government technology policies and implementations and directing enquires to the office of the NSW Commerce Minister.

Even the CIO’s Twitter profile contains relatively little detail about his activities; with entries consisting mainly of Foursquare check-ins at locations such as his office in the McKell building in Sydney and the Montparnasse Cafe Restaurant in Randwick, where Rodriguez is a director.

The news comes little over a week after NSW Premier Kristina Keneally flagged plans to release a revamped IT procurement framework, with the release date also slated to be just before the upcoming state election.

At the event, Loretta Johnson, policy and government relations manager for the Australian Information Industry Association reportedly praised Rodriguez, according to the AustralianIT, noting he had been committed to the overhaul “from day one”.

Image credit: Dane Munro, royalty free, NSW Government