NextGen CIO Q&A: Craig Lloyd

Craig Lloyd, CIO at the Metropolitan Fire Brigade, Melbourne, and a mentor on the NextGen CIO program, is not your typical CIO. Lloyd explains his unusual path to the CIO role, reflects on the key skills a CIO must have, and passes on advice to aspiring CIOs.
Written by ZDNet Australia team , Contributor

Craig Lloyd's path to his current CIO role is not one that's well-travelled. It comprises a mix of senior operational and IT roles in emergency services, which have provided a foundation for developing IT-led innovations to enhance organisational efficiency.

Starting as a police officer in London, Lloyd parlayed a personal interest in IT into an IT role within Scotland Yard, where he introduced an intelligence briefing system for the Metropolitan Police.

After migrating to Victoria, Australia, he worked on a transition program in the Victorian Police, and then took the CIO post with Rural Ambulance Victoria.

Following another stint in the UK as assistant chief ambulance officer, Great Western Ambulance Service NHS Trust, Lloyd returned to Victoria to a strategic role in the Department of Justice, the body that most emergency services in the state report to.

As director of Emergency Services Policy & Support, he led the development of the Emergency Services Communications Strategic Framework, a government policy document that will guide the state's future communications investments.

Lloyd's next move into an operational role, to become general manager of the State Operations Centre at St. John Ambulance, Western Australia, was in challenging circumstances. He joined at a time when the organisation had suffered negative press following an ABC Four Corners exposé about sub-standard ambulance despatch, which was claimed to have led to inadequate performance and, reportedly, to avoidable deaths.

The absence of effective communications is one reason projects fail, so the CIO must be sure that doesn't happen.

As Lloyd took the role of operational lead of the organisations State Operations Centre, he was charged with reviewing and overhauling the organisations Triple Zero ambulance despatch process. He and his team delivered significant improvements in performance through both technology and procedural reengineering.

With such a varied background, Lloyd has some strong views on the critical skills that are required for a CIO role.

First of all, people skills are essential. "CIOs must be able to communicate well with others in the business. This requires negotiation and influencing skills, and showing the commitment to get the desired outcome," he said.

At another level, communication is important because, often, the CIO must act as an interpreter between business people and technical people. "The absence of effective communications is one reason projects fail, so the CIO must be sure that doesn't happen", he added.

CIOs must also be excellent team builders and, "while they need a grasp of technical issues, they shouldn't be too focused on the technical," Lloyd said.

They need to build the right technical skills in the team around them and allow these people to bring their expertise to the table. That frees the CIO up to focus on the business outcomes that his or her team must deliver, and on connecting with the wider organisation.

CIOs also need to have a strong understanding of the organisation they work in and its major functions. In Lloyd's case, his deep experience in operational management in emergency services organisations provides the context for quickly grasping what's important and what's less so.

The primary objectives of Lloyd's current role are demanding and have changed rapidly in recent years.

Don't be afraid to speak up and present new ideas and innovations. Be seen to be someone who delivers.

Principally, he is charged with balancing IT service delivery and expenditure to meet the changing and growing needs of the fire service. A big, new challenge, following the recommendations of the 2009 Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission that was published in July 2010, is the directive that all emergency services work closely together and build interoperability across agencies. This is resulting in far greater levels of collaboration across agencies. For example, Lloyd's Metropolitan Fire Brigade's SAP applications are shared with the State Emergency Services and the Country Fire Authority.

Asked about the advice that he would give to aspiring CIOs, Lloyd said that it's important that they take opportunities when they arise. "Don't be afraid to speak up and present new ideas and innovations. Be seen to be someone who delivers. Don't sit back and just be part of an organisation — make a difference," he said.

Secondly, Lloyd encourages potential CIOs to continue their education: "It's quite unusual for a CIO not to have a Masters degree. The value is not only about learning business or technical skills, it's about showing a commitment to develop and a dedication to succeed".

In his free time, Lloyd keeps fit through his involvement as a top state-grade hockey umpire. He has a long-term involvement in hockey, both as player and umpire coach, and has previously been chair of the officiating committee.

In the immediate future, his time outside work will be focused on his first child Charlotte, who was born just weeks ago.

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