DHS CIO Coles takes central Vic Govt role



news Well-regarded IT executive Grahame Coles has resigned from his role as chief information officer at Victoria’s massive Department of Human Services to take up a key position in the state’s newly created central Office of the Chief Technology Advocate, with the department to conduct a national search for his replacement.

Coles has held senior management roles at the department since October 2007, according to his LinkedIn profile, joining as information management & technology director of corporate services and being appointed chief information officer almost five years ago in June 2009. He previously held senior roles at Coles as well as Zespri International and Goodman Fielder.

Human Services is one of the larger departments in Victoria, providing a wide raft of housing and other community services that relate to children and families, disability, crisis support and more. Internally within the Victorian Government, Coles’ stewardship of the IT division at the department — despite problems with IT shared services agency CenITex — is believed to be well-regarded, and the executive also holds several other senior roles, such as sitting on the State Government’s Information Technology Advisory Council (VICTAC) and chairing the State Government’s CIO Council, as well as its Geospatial Committee.


In a statement issued to Delimiter this afternoon, DHS confirmed a report about Coles’ departure published by iTNews, which appears to have reported this news first.

“Grahame Coles, the department’s Chief Information Officer (CIO) for the past five years, will be leaving DHS on 21 February to take up a new role as Executive Director, Digital Government in the Office of the Chief Technology Advocate at the Department of State Development, Business and Innovation,” the department said.

“Grahame has made a significant contribution to improving Information Management and Technology services at DHS. His achievements include bringing together the disparate IM&T groups from across the organisation to establish a coordinated team delivering high quality IM&T support to both internal and external stakeholders. A national search will be undertaken to recruit to this important role in the Department.”

The Office of the Chief Technology Advocate is a relatively new one within the Victorian State Government. It was created in early 2013 following the publication of the state’s new ICT Strategy, which recommended the creation of such a position. It is held by Grantly Mailes, the former whole of government chief information officer of the South Australian State Government, who authored the ICT Strategy.

The strategy document notes the CTA role “together with the Victorian Government CIO Council will provide direction and coordination in information management and technology within government” and will sit within the Department of Business and Innovation, supporting cross-government ICT frameworks, planning, reporting and so on. It is similar in some ways to whole of government CIO roles in other State Governments, but appears to take more of an influencer role rather than a direct controlling position.

Mailes was also appointed in October 2013 as chair and sole director of the board of CenITex, the troubled IT shared services agency whose portfolio is being largely outsourced to the private sector at the moment.

Coles and Mailes have their work cut out for them in the office of the CTA, with widespread problems in IT in the Victorian Government.

In November 2011, for example, Victoria’s Ombudsman handed down one of the most damning assessments of public sector IT project governance in Australia’s history, noting total cost over-runs of $1.44 billion, extensive delays and a general failure to actually deliver on stated aims in 10 major IT projects carried out by the state over the past half-decade. And other reports since have continually highlighted the State Government’s inept handling of IT management.

This is a great move. Already influential within the Victorian State Government and respected as a senior CIO, Coles’ move into the office of the chief technology advocate to work with Mailes is an ideal one for all stakeholders. As I have previously noted, Mailes himself is a very solid and experienced operator. Adding Coles’ direct experience and skills to the office is a fantastic move, and will do much to create a huge weight of gravity around the Office of the CTA.

Think about it … Mailes authored Victoria’s ICT Strategy and clearly works very closely with ICT Minister Gordon Rich-Phillips. He’s also the key oversight executive helping to shape the evolution of CenITex, which provides IT services to quite a few agencies. With Coles’ appointment, he’s been joined by a senior CIO from the State Government who is reputed to have had DHS’ IT house largely in order (a rarity in Victoria), despite even CenITex’s extensive bungling, and who was already influential on the inter-department bodies. In my view, this appointment will make Victoria’s Office of the CTA more influential than most whole of government CIO offices, with two influential and well-credentialed executives at its core and strong political support. Very nice.

What this move signals is that Mailes, Rich-Phillips and the Victorian Government in general are very serious about cleaning up the mess outlined in the 2011 Ombudsman’s Report. We’re seeing all the ducks lined up in a row. And it’s a very good thing too — because Victoria needs a strong hand at its IT wheel at the moment.

Image credit: Benjamin Diehl, royalty free, Grahame Coles