EXCLUSIVE – The role of the Chief Information Officer (CIO) as the Builder of good information systems and ICT solutions for organisations

In an interview with OpenGov, Mr. Jack Hondros shared updates from the amalgamation of government departments of Western Australia in July 2017 and the ongoing transitions in terms of operating model and consolidation of departmental functions. He also gave his insights about the some of the changes in the approach of government as an experienced public officer with more than 30 years of service.

Mr. Hondros previously worked for over a decade with the Department of Finance (Formerly Dept. of Treasury and Finance) in the ICT Major Projects Division with a primary role to deliver ICT corporate and business solutions, major ICT contracts and projects. He has been the CIO of the Department of Planning (now Department of Planning, Lands and Heritage) since September 2014. 

Could you tell us about your role as CIO at the Department of Planning, Lands and Heritage?

The Department recently formed under the new WA Labour Government and begun operation on 1 July 2017. This Department amalgamated the former Departments of Planning, Lands, as well as the heritage and land functions from the Department of Aboriginal Affairs and the State Heritage Office.

My role is currently to continue the management and development of information systems and business solutions for the Planning portfolio. Work is currently in progress to form a new amalgamated operating model and to review the Departments corporate functions. I currently provide leadership and advice as a member of the Business and Corporate Services Division.

Could you share with us some of the major projects/initiatives that your department is working right now and their implementation plans?

The Department is currently consolidating HR, Payroll and Finance functions into single SaaS solutions.  A current review is underway reviewing a number of core systems and two major projects are in progress to consolidate HR and Payroll systems and to review corporate networks and business systems. This strategy is also considering GovNext.

The WA Government went through a process of amalgamation in July this year, with many departments being combined into one, such the Department of Planning, Lands and Heritage, which were previously 4 separate departments/sections. Could you share with us some of the merger-related opportunities and challenges in your role as the CIO?

There are many opportunities for improvements in business processes through the selection of best practice across the four former Departments.  All had some extremely good ways to deliver business ICT solutions that are being scaled out to the whole Department.  This has enabled consolidation and some potential savings as time goes forward.

The people that we now have in the combined DPLH are very talented and have come together in a professional way to work together to deliver new ways of working. The technology and systems challenges are that we have increased our complexity and added a range of services. This will take to time to normalise. A key driver for this will be the formation of new governance and functional structures to support the new services across the Department in 2018.

In which phase is the Department of Planning, Lands and Heritage at with regards to the GovNext-ICT initiative run by the Office of the GCIO?

We are at the planning phase working on Enterprise Architecture and project planning.

You have been working in the public sector for more than 3 decades. What do you think have been the biggest changes you have seen in government in terms of ICT adoption and digital transformation?

I see that Government has worked through a number of consolidation cycles from the work that the Department of Bureau Services undertook in the mid 1990’s and then to a distributed model and then back again to a Shared Services model.  When I commenced in ICT, the WA Government operated financials, HR and project systems using IBM Mainframe services hosted by the Department of Bureau Services.  We then decommissioned this and then in 2005 introduced the Department of Shared Services for 45 Departments for Finance and some larger Departments around for HR/payroll. This was then decommissioned and today we are now looking at moving the risk to commercial arrangements that provide consolidation through GovNext for networks, Cloud and infrastructure.

I see this cycle continuing in a diminishing cycle as the technology matures and the cost of managed services reduces through standardisation and the rapid rise in Artificial Intelligence solutions.

The role of the CIO, to me is aligned to a Builder of houses or buildings. My role has changed to a consulting role that co-ordinates external and internal resource through the formation of plans and strategies.  Very much like building a house, we must start at the foundations and work from there and involve stakeholders in the planning, testing and delivery phases.

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