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Vic Police CIO seeks deputy for IT shakedown

Years of frustration with "unfair" IT outsourcing contracts and chronic IT underfunding have driven Victoria Police CIO Valda Berzins to shake things up at the organisation, with a new senior staffer soon to come onboard to help her guide a major overhaul of the organisation's IT strategy.
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Written by David Braue, Contributing Writer on

Years of frustration with "unfair" IT outsourcing contracts and chronic IT underfunding have driven Victoria Police CIO Valda Berzins to shake things up at the organisation, with a new senior staffer soon to come onboard to help her guide a major overhaul of the organisation's IT strategy.

The new position, dubbed "group manager, major change projects" in recent advertisements, will provide a new right-hand man (or woman) for Berzins, who earned her stripes during two decades of service at Carlton United Breweries and Australia Post before joining Victoria Police in 2004.

It's the first such hire for Berzins, and reflects her belief that years of stagnation have done little to progress the cause of IT within the massive organisation. "My view is that we have a bit of work to do in IT," she explained. "I felt very early on that I needed someone to drive [change]. The operational people would look at what was immediately in their area, and if they had to fight fires they would be less likely to tackle the bigger challenges that confronted them because they didn't have time."

Berzins said the new hire's main responsibility will be to audit the organisation's myriad operational processes, identifying potential areas for improvement. One part of the role will involve the steering of the organisation's AU$59 million LEAP (Law Enforcement Assistance Program) upgrade, while other potential areas of focus include a greater investment in mobility technology -- particularly, out-of-car devices to complement the existing dashboard-mounted information terminals.

Other areas Berzins believes could be up for improvement include the organisation's workforce planning and 000 system, as well as the effectiveness of the integration between the various systems Victoria Police relies on every day.

One strategy Victoria Police won't be pursuing again any time soon is outsourcing: after a frustratingly ineffective five-year, AU$110 million contract with IBM Global Services went sour and AU$86 million in penalties was paid to IBM, Berzins is determined that this time around the organisation will keep its talent close to hand.

"I'd like anything to do with how we reach our IT vision, to be with IT rather than trying to have IT service providers take that responsibility," she said. "[Whole-of-department outsourcing] is most unfair and does not end up in a positive way for everybody; anybody who knows anything about those models knows they just don't work. It's nothing to do with the service provider per se, just the construction of the model."

Given the many political forces that must be navigated in such a key role, Berzins envisions the ideal candidate will have a mix of finance, business and IT skills -- "a good analytical person, not just someone who does organisational change management" -- that will allow him or her to manage multiple service provider relationships and to handle long-term strategic IT planning.

Ultimately, the goal of the initiatives will be to improve Victoria Police's performance against key performance indicators (KPIs) including crime, road toll, safety and customer satisfaction. "This is all about looking at what we need to change to do things better," she said. "We'll be looking in a major way at processes and opportunities for redesigning how we do things."

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