news Queensland-based software vendor Technology One has poached the executive in charge of the state government’s IT renewal program to become a business development executive, in a move that will further stimulate ongoing questions about the close relationship between the state’s public sector and its IT vendors.
It was reported in late January that the executive in charge of Queensland’s IT renewal program, Glenn Walker, had resigned for a position in the private sector after just nine months in his position. The loss was felt keenly by the Queensland Government at the time, due to the critical nature of the IT renewal initiative.
Walker’s original appointment after a history as the CIO of the state’s emergency serivces function had come as one response by the state government to a landmark audit of its ICT infrastructure. That audit, published in June 2013, found that ninety percent of the Queensland Government’s ICT systems were outdated and would require replacement within five years at a total cost of $7.4 billion, as Queensland continues to grapple with the catastrophic outcome of years of “chronic underfunding” into its dilapidated ICT infrastructure.
This week it was revealed that Walker had, in fact, resigned to take up a position with a direct connection to the IT renewal program and the Queensland Government’s IT purchasing strategy — but on the other side of the fence.
The executive’s LinkedIn profile now states that he holds a role as a business development manager with Technology One, a Queensland-headquartered enterprise software firm which wins much of its business with the public sector.
“Using my deep industry knowledge and years of experience, I am dedicated to helping our clients achieve their goals by providing totally customised advice for a range of projects including replacing legacy ERP systems, building and implementing new deeply integrated financial systems realising enterprise wide information management systems, and assisting organisations transition to using enterprise software as a service,” Walker’s LinkedIn profile states.
“At TechnologyOne, our philosophy of “The Power of One” means that that when you invest in a TechnologyOne solution, you benefit from a direct relationship with us every step of the way (hence why we do not sell our products through resellers, or use third party organisations to implement our solutions). We are directly responsible to you for achieving outcomes including improved reporting, streamlined processes, and real time decision making. Our cloud and mobility solutions ensure easy adoption of a SaaS model – and puts powerful decision making powers into any user’s hands anywhere and anytime.”
The news represents the second time over the past half-decade that the Queensland Government has lost a senior technology executive from its central IT strategic division to the private sector. In January 2008, the state’s whole of government chief information officer Peter Grant took a role as State Director of Microsoft, before being re-appointed to the post of whole of government CIO in December 2011.
The news also comes as the state government has also recently been grappling with key problems in its relationships with external IT services providers.
In August 2013, for example, The Queensland Government’s formal inquiry into the payroll systems upgrade debacle at Queensland Health found damning allegations of procurement impropriety in the appointment of IBM as prime contractor for the initiative, and has concluded that Big Blue should never have won the contract in the first place.
Technology One has also been in the spotlight over the past several years for its relationship with the public sector, especially at the political level. In November 2012, Queensland Premier was forced to defend then-IT Minister Ros Bates, after revelations Bates had donated money towards Bates’ re-election campaign. Subsequently, Technology One was able to hold several several meetings with the Minister.
Let’s be very clear here: There’s no improper behaviour here on the part of Walker. He is absolutely entitled to switch away from his job in the public sector and take roles in the private sector, as he wishes. It’s a free country. He’s obviously qualified for the job at Technology One, has already served the state government for a long time, and will doubtless do a very good job in his new role. We congratulate him on his appointment.
Neither do we believe Technology One has done anything wrong here. On the contrary, spending small amounts lobbying the government, and poaching senior IT executives from within a government’s ranks is precisely what you would expect a corporation to do. This is all normal.
However, we do need to ask here whether the Queensland Government is doing enough to ensure its key central IT strategists are not being poached by the private sector. Two senior IT executives in only a handful of years, leaving its central IT decision-making group for the private sector? That seems a little strange, given the importance of the task Queensland is facing. In addition, obviously, Queensland will need to ensure that its relationship with Technology One is completely above board. Of course governments will maintain close relationships with IT vendors. But those links need to be transparent and regularly scrutinised to ensure correct behaviour is followed.
Image credit: Glenn Walker