news Seasoned public servant Glenn Archer has resigned from his role as whole of government chief information officer and from the Federal Government, just a year after taking it up as part of the split of the Australian Government Information Management Office (AGIMO).
“Today is my last day in the Australian Public Service,” said Archer in a Tweet this morning. “Will be sad to say farewell to staff in AGIMO but looking forward to moving on. The CIO’s departure was reported late Friday afternoon. At that stage, Intermedium reported that Archer had sent an abrupt email to “astonished colleagues” stating he was leaving his role today.
Archer was appointed Australian Government Chief Information Officer in December 2012. At the time, the then-Labor Federal Government had split its troubled IT strategy division, AGIMO, in two, promoting internal staffers into two new chief information and technology officer roles in line with the recommendations of the Reinecke review regarding the agency’s future.
AGIMO, which evolved out of the National Office of the Information Economy in the early years of last decade, is responsible for setting whole of government technology policy when it comes to the internal IT operations of the Federal Government. However, with much of the practicalities of such a role remaining in practice in the hands of individual departmental chief information officers and secretaries, AGIMO has appeared to struggle at times to find its place.
Documents released under Freedom of Information laws in April 2012, for example, appeared to show that the minister overseeing the Federal Government’s peak IT decision-making agency was concerned about its ability to deliver on a whole of government technology strategy, with yet another review being commissioned into its performance. And in November 2010, consultant Ian Reinecke in his review of the Government’s implementation of the Gershon IT reforms confirmed AGIMO had successfully delivered many of the reforms, but revealed there were a variety of conflicting views about the agency’s efficacy held throughout the Federal public sector.
At the time, Gershon recommended the Department of Finance and Deregulation, which houses AGIMO, undertake a thorough assessment of the agency’s two separate roles – policy development and operations/implementation — to consider whether the group should be separated in two.
In December 2012 the Federal Government took action on the Reinecke and Gershon reports, splitting AGIMO in two. One of the two public servants appointed to a more senior role in December 2012 was Archer, previously First Assistant Secretary, Policy and Planning, within AGIMO. Archer’s CIO role was to focus on whole of government ICT policy; while a colleague, John Sheridan, was appointed chief technology officer to focus on whole of government service delivery. This morning Sheridan publicly wished Archer well in his future plans on behalf of his government IT colleagues.
Archer has a strong history within the Federal Government. Prior to taking up his prior AGIMO role in June 2010, he had been CIO at the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations from January 2008, and prior to that, CIO at the Department of Education, Science and Training from February 2007. He had previously held a number of senior IT roles at Centrelink. As far back as 2001 he was a sales and channel manager for Cisco Systems, and he’s also worked as a major account manager and systems engineer at Apple.
Does Archer’s resignation signal a wider shake-up within the Federal Government’s whole of government CIO and/or CTO offices? It wouldn’t be unexpected at all if this were the case; after all, we’ve got a new Coalition Government and a new reality in Canberra.
It will be interesting to see what the Coalition Federal Government does next with the remnants of AGIMO. I will note, however, that from an outsider’s perspective, in a general sense, my opinion on the split of AGIMO and Archer’s appointment published in January 2013 appears to have been relatively accurate. As I wrote at the time:
“… by splitting AGIMO and integrating it further into Finance, the Federal Government also loses the chance to take a technology leadership role as we’ve seen in the US, UK and Canada. Glenn Archer, although he’s a solid chap, simply won’t have the power to be a thought leader in his new revised role; although he’s a whole of government CIO too, don’t expect any Vivek Kundra-like shake-ups from Archer in the near term. Anything along those lines he does try will be squashed by the bureaucrats in Finance before it gets off the ground.”
Whatever the case is regarding Archer’s resignation — whether it highlights a wider shakeup or not — his resignation also represents the loss of a significant senior IT executive from the Federal Government. Archer is one of the more experienced IT executives in Canberra. The loss of his knowledge and background will certainly be felt in the Federal public sector. With his accomplishments and the effort he has put in serving the public, one can only wish Archer well and thank him for his efforts.
Image credit (Archer): Glenn Archer