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ICT Advisory Panel helped NSW steer the right path to the cloud, says Chairman

by Paris Cowan •
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Twelve months since his appointment as the inaugural Chairman of the NSW ICT Advisory Panel, Deutsche Bank’s John Baird says that one of the industry group’s proudest achievements has been helping the NSW Government select a balanced and moderate middle path towards cloud computing.

“Cloud was one of the very first things that the Minister and I discussed,” Baird recounted to Intermedium at the HealthShare NSW Expo in Sydney last week, of his early interaction with Minister for Finance and Services Greg Pearce.

“[Pearce] wanted to know whether the NSW Government should build data centres or should just move to cloud straight away,” he said.

According to the Chairman the Minister and his colleagues faced a fraught battle between a number of conservative and risk adverse public servants on the one hand, and the utopian visions of ICT sales people on the other, and was fortunate that the panel was available to offer it a moderate voice.

“There was  tension between some of the established IT figures within the government who were saying ‘we’ve always bought machines and we will continue to buy machines’, versus the sales people saying that cloud will fix everything, just as long as you do it today.

“I think both approaches are wrong for the government. They did a really good job of working with the ICT Advisory Panel and developing the new strategy,” Baird said. In his opinion a steady and consistent approach is the only way to go about the transition to cloud.

“Cloud is definitely the destination, but the journey is crucially important. If you try and put cloud into some agencies as they stand right now you will fail, it is that simple,” he said.

In May 2012 the NSW Government handed down its ICT Strategy setting out a roadmap for the transition to government-wide cloud computing by 2015. Later that month, it also signed a ten-year lease for two Tier III data centres currently being constructed by Metronode, which will own and manage the facilities to be primarily filled by NSW Government tenants.

Baird said that his 12 months working alongside the NSW Government had been overwhelmingly positive, with everyone from the Minister to Director General and agency CIOs proving receptive to the ideas of the private and research sector experts making up the seven-member group.

He also expressed a belief that a real transformation was underway in the State, away from some of the more insular and inefficient practices of the past.

“I think the government has suffered a lot from the ‘not invented here’ disorder. Agencies have tended to redevelop things over and over...As the Minister said about his own Department, there was something like 20 different web interfaces for people to actually use. In one agency!” he said.

“Originally there was an attitude amongst some of the agencies of ‘yes we’ve heard you but this is our turf and we will keep doing what we have been doing’. But what I’m starting to find now is that people are more accepting of change. They’re saying ‘yes I’ve heard you and we just can’t keep doing what we used to do, so let’s get together on this’.”

Baird is Head of Global Technology Production at Deutsche Bank. He had recently confirmed that he will stay on as Chairman of the NSW ICT Advisory Panel for a second 12-month term. 

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  • NSW
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  • NSW Data Centre Strategy
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