Queensland Govt to get new powerful CIO

Queensland Premier Anna Bligh has today announced that it will be creating a powerful state government chief information officer role, which will have the autonomy to drive whole-of-government projects.
Written by Suzanne Tindal, Contributor

Queensland Premier Anna Bligh has today announced that it will be creating a powerful state government chief information officer role, which will have the autonomy to drive whole-of-government projects.

The move comes as a response to the PricewaterhouseCoopers-commissioned review after the Queensland Health shared services debacle, which saw staff overpaid, underpaid or not paid at all.

Bligh said that the report had recognised the "very important role" that a strong and independent government CIO could play in providing advice to government, liaising with industry and helping to manage whole-of-government projects.

Until now, the CIO role had been carried out by the director general of Public Works — previously Mal Grierson, who had gone on leave, with Natalie MacDonald taking his place.

Bligh acknowledged the work that had been carried out by Grierson and MacDonald, but indicated that it was time for a change, with a whole-of-government CIO role to be created. Such a role would have the power of a CEO position, reporting directly to ICT Minister Simon Finn.

"The government has resolved to strengthen and elevate that role. What we'll be doing is creating a Queensland Government CIO position and office that will be a full-time, independent, standalone position."

The CIO will be responsible for ICT project and program management, the planning and implementation of the government's Towards Q2 through ICT strategy, government enterprise architecture, industry liaison and workforce and shared services policy, according to Bligh. Reporting directly to Finn will allow the CIO to bypass the bureaucracy of the Department of Public Works to get to the minister. It will also provide support and advice to the Department of Premier and Cabinet.

The director general and the Department of Public Works will continue to lead shared services delivery as accountable officer for the newly created Queensland Shared Services, as well as CITEC and Smart Service Queensland.

"What we're essentially doing is creating a contestable environment between the areas of govt responsible for providing shared services and the policy functions providing advice to government," Bligh said.

The Department of Public Works said that the chief information office would, however, not be put back together after being split in 2009 after Bligh's introduction of the Towards Q2 through ICT strategy. The units created by the split were the Telecommunications, Broadband and Digital Economy Co-ordination Office, the ICT Policy and Coordination Office and the Public Sector Development Office, which was meant as a liaison arm. Alan Chapman, who had been the executive director for the combined office, became the head of the policy arm. These units would report to the CIO.

Chapman had become the acting chief information officer after Peter Grant left for Queensland Health in July 2007, and then moved to Microsoft after there. Grant had been handed the CIO title in 2007 (previously his title was assistant director general) following recommendations from the state's Service Delivery and Productivity Commission report on ICT governance.

However, the CIO title was handed to Grierson in November 2008 before the chief information office was split into three. Grierson went on leave earlier this year, and his role was being carried out in acting capacity by Natalie MacDonald, associate director general of the Department of Public Works. The plan was for Grierson to come back and take the shared services restructure by the horns.

However, he won't have the CIO moniker, as the chief information officer role will now be advertised in the papers this weekend, and Bligh expected to have input into the appointment.

"By separating and elevating and strengthening the role of the Queensland government CIO, we intend to install a champion for your industry and a commitment to your industry in the decision-making processes of government," Bligh said.

Longhaus managing director Peter Carr said that he thinks that it's a positive change, with the biggest change being the fact that the CIO is at the CEO level. However, he pointed out that the person in the role would have to be strong, with the whole-of-government concept an elusive goal, as agencies still maintain service-level accountability.

"Yes, it's in a better place, because it'll get 24/7 attention instead of being at the foot of the director general, but it's going to take a couple of years," he said.

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