Customs appoints new CIO, CTO



news The Australian Customs and Border Protection Service has appointed executives to its newly created chief information officer and chief technology officer roles, as the agency continues its drive to extensively restructure its technology operations.

In a statement this afternoon confirming a report on technology news and analysis site Intermedium, Customs noted that its new chief technology officer is Randall Brugeaud, who started with the agency on 27 May. Its new chief information officer and national director of inetlligence is Rachel Noble, who started the week before on 20 May.

Brugeaud is a newcomer to Customs, but not to the Federal public service. Prior to joining Customs, Randall worked with ComSuper as its chief information officer, as well as holding an assistant secretary position at the Department of Immigration and Citizenship. The executive also held a consulting position for two years at Boston Consulting Group, and was for 10 years the founder and director of an IT consulting company, Intelligent Consulting. Brugeaud holds a Master of Business Administration degree, a Graduate Diploma in Applied Computing and a Bachelor of Education degree.

Customs could not immediately confirm biographical details relating to Noble, however it is possible, given the role the executive has taken up, that the executive is the same Rachel Noble who was in April 2009 appointed as Australia’s first national security chief information officer. At the time, ZDNet reported that Noble would move within a position at the Defence Signals Directorate to the Prime Minister and Cabinet’s (PM&C) National Security and International Policy Group. At the time, Noble was described as having a distinguished career in Defence.

It appears as though Customs has changed the way it was attempting to restructure its IT operations, with the new appointments and the retention of the CIO title as part of the national director of intelligence role filled by Noble.

In February this year, Customs said that it would abolish its chief information officer role in the wake of the resignation of its incumbent CIO Joe Attanasio from the position in late November last year. It had advertised for a number of new roles at that time, including the CTO role filled by Brugeaud and the national director intelligence role filled by Noble.

“As Customs and Border Protection faces the challenge of ever increasing volumes of international passengers and goods crossing the border and increasingly sophisticated criminal activity, the NDI will have the key responsibility of integrating and enhancing the agency’s intelligence and information management capability to support our strategic, intelligence-led, risk based approach to border management,” the agency’s NDI job at at the time stated.

“Although not a designated position, the NDI will also perform the role of strategic Information Officer and for the first time will also be responsible for integrating the agency’s existing intelligence and analytics capability with it’s information management capability. In part, resources to support these activities will transition from the current Information Technology Division.”

It appears that Brugeaud will report to Customs’ national director of support, rather than the NDI role held by Noble. “Support Division will deliver enterprise wide support services necessary for Customs and Border Protection to carry out its border protection role and for delivery of those services,” a spokesperson for Customs said at that time. It appears Noble’s NDI/CIO role i s more focused on managing higher-end intelligence/information/analytics capability for the agency.

iTNews reported in April this year that the shifts in the agency would effectively see its IT support operation split in two, although no IT staff were to be made redundant at that point.

It looks as though Customs’ IT operation has been split along two lines. I would broadly describe Brugeaud’s new role and division as having responsibility for “keeping the lights on”, in that it appears that it will mainly be a cost centre responsible for Customs’ fundamental IT infrastructure and systems — more of a traditional IT department, but, I would guess, with more operational/tactical powers and responsibility rather than much of a strategic focus.

In comparison, it appears as though Noble’s division will focus much more on aligning new technology applications with what I would describe as Customs’ forward-thinking strategy; unifying the agency’s information databases and aligning them with new sources of information in order to provide contextual data about operations involving Customs. It’s a more strategic role, in my opinion — more application- and business-focused rather than the apparent support focus of Brugeaud’s division.

It’s an interesting split. We do see this kind of thing occasionally, especially within huge enterprises such as banks, but I’ve rarely seen it within Government, where central CIO roles tend to be all-powerful. An exception would be Defence, where there definitely are discrete IT divisions for operations (such as the Defence Signals Directorate), and fundamental, often civilian infrastructure (Defence’s CIO Group). Perhaps Customs sees this model working in Defence and wants to apply it somewhat to its own operations; at the very least, it wants to make more use of information in the modern age to inform its operations; and technology is obviously at the core of that.

I would expect to see some very interesting, and probably nimble, stuff to come out of Noble’s tenure at the agency, if we ever get a comprehensive window into the executive’s work.

Image credit: Customs