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Interview: NSW Police’s new CIO on cloud, outsourcing, BYOD and more

by Paris Cowan •
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On 31 January 2012, Chris Robson joined the NSW Police Force as its first ever CIO.

Prior to his appointment Robson worked as the Asia-Pacific CIO for Tyco Fire and Security Services, and before this, for the Federal Airports Corporation (then a government-owned enterprise) which went on to become the Sydney Airports Corporation.

He started out in the Navy as a Weapons Electrical Engineering Officer.

Just one day after sitting in on his first meeting of the ICT Leadership Group, Robson spoke to Intermedium on the key challenges and opportunities facing him in his new role.

...on Cloud Computing

I would like to be able to take advantage of cloud services, but a lot of our security arrangements really preclude us from going down this path right away. If we reach the point where somewhere in the government sector there is a private cloud that meets the needs of ourselves, and similar agencies, we would certainly look forward to trying to leverage those sorts of roles.

I’m not seeing that those services are available yet. I’m aware that there is discussion going on within the state ICT group about when we might be able to get to those kinds of services for government agencies.

...on Bring-Your-Own Device (BYOD)

Five weeks into the job I can certainly see the opportunity and the need for even more mobility.

There is a general revolution in industry going on around tablets and mobile computing, and there are definitely opportunities emerging to apply this to a Police context.

We have done some good work with our prosecutors in the courts, in terms of allowing them to access documents on iPads, and like any other organisation we’re dealing with the consumerisation of ICT.   There are definitely Police staff who are looking for an opportunity to leverage their own tablet device, or their own smartphone in a police context.

I did introduce a BYOD policy with my previous employer and I knew that I had to engage with legal and HR to do this. And it will be the same case here if we are going to go down this same path.

As the Police, however, we naturally have some security considerations that are unique to our organisation that are really important. But this is not an insurmountable obstacle, especially given the tools that are available now to help us manage the risks. We’re at a pilot stage now – we have a few users, myself included – who are piloting the BYOD approach. What now has to follow is a policy framework.

...on engaging with IT Suppliers

I’m already learning that in the public sector, some of these things are managed a bit differently.

But whether you’re a large corporation or the government, open, effective and fair purchasing are common principles. I’ve already met a couple of our key suppliers. Suppliers often have great global perspective, and certainly they’re effective at sharing knowledge internally.

Also I recognise that our suppliers develop a lot of intellectual property through the course of working with us, and we should value that and we should look at ways of building on it.

The main thing I can bring into this role is an understanding of the many different delivery models that are possible.

...on outsourcing

I come into this role believing that a degree of outsourcing is what everyone needs to do as part of delivering the full spectrum of IT services to an organisation, and I’m not sensing any particular degree of hostility towards outsourcing within NSW Police.

Once again, because of the nature of some of the data we handle I can see that there are challenges to taking advantage of some of the opportunities that are more widely available. Some things you can do and some things you can’t do. But if we look at where all of industry is moving, the sort of services that relate to keeping the lights on, and those goods and services that are commoditised, are progressively being moved towards the commercial sector through outsourcing.

My belief is that you’ve got to invest a lot in your own people and therefore you really want them to be working on the things that are of the most value to them. But if you’ve got other activities in house that don’t appear to have high business value, you’ve got to look at the economics of the situation. Can we get this better for the same price or the same at a lower price through outsourcing activity?

...on working with other agencies

I’m seeing good collaboration with external agencies now. Even in my first week I was working with Attorney General and Justice on projects that we’ve got in train now and into the future to improve data exchange with the courts.

There certainly is scope to do a lot more, and in my travels around the organisation, meeting senior officers and so on, I gained a clear sense that there is recognition that a lot of the services we deliver to the public transcend the boundaries of NSW Police Force. Agencies in the cluster really have to work together effectively to best deliver those services.

I come from a private sector organisation that is on the same simplification, consolidation and cloud and shared services journey. I think most of industry is on this journey because it is one of the ways you ultimately reach efficiency.


Related Articles:

New CIO sought to manage ICT reform program at NSW Police

NSW Police Force launches new ICT Strategy

NSW Police considers SAP upgrade and Mobile Technology Strategy

NSW Agencies told to step up policing of IT Services contracts

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  • NSW
  • Justice
  • Attorney General
  • BYOD
  • Chris Robson
  • CIO
  • Cloud Computing
  • ICT Outsourcing
  • mobile government