Backley hangs up Westpac jersey

Westpac's former chief technology officer David Backley has ended his 12-year stint with the bank, with chief information officer Bob McKinnon announcing Backley's resignation to staff last Friday.
Written by Liam Tung, Contributing Writer

Westpac's former chief technology officer David Backley has ended his 12-year stint with the bank, with chief information officer Bob McKinnon announcing Backley's resignation to staff last Friday.


David Backley, former Westpac CTO
(Credit: Future Exploration Network)

Backley handed in his resignation on Friday, according to a Westpac spokesperson.

In an email seen by ZDNet.com.au, McKinnon thanked Backley for his efforts in recent months in what had been his revised role as acting general manager for service delivery applications.

"I would like to also acknowledge the significant contribution David has made to Westpac Technology in a variety of roles over 12 years," wrote McKinnon.

Backley's decision comes as Westpac continues its $600 million integration with St George.

According to McKinnon, the reason for Backley's departure was that the bank had found a candidate to take on the role of general manager for service delivery application in a permanent capacity. Westpac expects to the new candidate to start with the bank in May, with Randy Fennel to take up the lead in the interim, according to the email.

Backley was one of the few remaining from the bank's senior technology management ranks prior to Kelly's appointment as CEO in mid-2007. In July last year Westpac announced a massive restructure, which saw the departures of former Group CIO, Simon McNamara, and head of the now dissolved division, Business Technology Solutions and Services, Dian Sias. McKinnon was appointed to head up Westpac Technology.

At the time the restructure was announced, Westpac said it would retain Backley, however, at a recent technology forum in Sydney, Backley said to the audience "I'm not the CTO at the moment. I'm looking after application development and you can read into that whatever you like."

Backley said that Kelly had done a "very good job" blending the personas of St George and Westpac, with the former introducing things like customer surveys, the spirit of which he said "certainly didn't exist in the Westpac culture."

Successful projects Backley had led at the bank included its rollout of its VoIP telephony system, currently managed by Telstra until 2010, however the integration of it on the desktop had not worked, he said, because, following its deployment, the bank consolidated 10 buildings into one, leaving the technology with limited purpose.

Backley outlined the leadership problems that a large organisation like Westpac had faced in technology deployments.

"The difference that large organisations face is that failures become very very expensive failures because we didn't do low cost, iterative [projects]. We do massive systems rollouts, we expect huge paybacks and suddenly it doesn't work. And who was the project sponsor? They've probably moved on to another job, inside or outside the organsiation," he said.

Westpac's foray into Second Life for staff inductions was one such example where project sponsorship had failed, he said at the forum. "It all looked like a good idea. It worked. The feedback was good. But the project sponsor moved on, the department changed. Suddenly there was no one to push it through," he said.

Another project that didn't work for Westpac, but was showing signs of a resurgence under Kelly's leadership, was blogging — because the people who had started blogging failed to post content regularly, while feedback was muted because staff feared there would be repercussions from airing them.

"There has been a bit of resurgence under the new management of blogging and getting the right messages out and actually having some interactive conversations and Gail, again, is much more a proponent of that than our previous CEO [David Morgan]," Backley said

Prior to his appointment as CTO, Backley had lamented Westpac's decision to outsource security to its incumbant partner, IBM. He had also said that Westpac had struggled with IT support and delivery following the signing of its contract with IBM.

Backley's resignation is likely to afford him more time to focus on his PhD at UTS, which looks at 'The role of information technology in work life balance in the Australian context.'

A Westpac spokesperson said that Backley was well regarded by staff and that it was his decision to leave the bank.

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