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Opinion: How will upheaval at Finance and Services impact the NSW ICT agenda?

by Judy Hurditch •
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This week has seen sudden and major regime change at the top of the agency charged with the responsibility for Whole of Government ICT, with the sacking of Greg Pearce as New South Wales Minister for Finance and Services in the same week as incoming Director-General Laurie Glanfield took over from Michael Coutts-Trotter.

Unless handled effectively, this change has the potential to significantly slow the momentum around ICT reform that built up under the stewardship of Pearce and Coutts-Trotter.

Pearce will be replaced by Andrew Constance whose experience since entering the NSW Legislative Assembly in 2003 at the age of 29 has almost exclusively been in Ageing and Disability Services.  However, Constance appears to be a rising star in the Ministerial ranks of the O’Farrell government.  After just three years in Parliament, he became shadow minister in 2006 and then Minister for Ageing and Disability Services following the April 2011 election. 

As the member for Bega since 2003, Constance has a stronger IT pedigree than many politicians:

  • He was Member of the Standing Committee on Broadband in Rural and Regional Communities from June 2007 to March 2011;
  • Prior to his pre-selection at the age of 29, Constance worked as a corporate affairs consultant with Microsoft for three years;
  • As Minister for Ageing, he introduced a Tech Savvy Seniors course aimed at training older people in using new technology; and
  • When Greg Pearce was on leave, Constance acted as the Acting Minister for Finance and Services.

Pearce and Coutts-Trotter leave a strong legacy of ICT achievement, with a number initiatives now well embedded at the administrative level, which will require the stewardship of Glanfield to mature and prosper. 

The fact that Constance has some strong IT background will be welcomed by industry. However, Laurie Glanfield, a career public servant, has no such background. If the arrangements that applied while Coutts-Trotter was Director-General remain in place, Glanfield is due also assume the role of WofG CIO. 

Glanfield was previously Director-General of the Department of Attorney General and Justice, a role to which he was appointed in 1991. He is extremely well regarded in this role.  At his farewell ceremony, Jim Spigelman, previous Chief Justice of NSW said “Laurie Glanfield has been head of the Attorney General’s Department throughout my thirteen years of office. He was first appointed head of a government department under the Greiner government and his survival skills are comparable to those of Talleyrand”.

The issue however, is not how able a legal administrator Glanfield is, but the degree of ability and enthusiasm he manifests over the ICT role.  Glanfield was one of only two Director-Generals who were not on the ICT Board – the highest level of the ICT governance structure in NSW. He also presided over the JusticeLink project, which has run over time and budget and been the subject of criticism from the Auditor-General. His Department was also slow to act in filling its pinnacle ICT role following the creation of the Departmental clusters by Nathan Rees in 2009.

It would not be a great surprise if new arrangements for the WofG CIO role are announced in the next 3-6 months, such that Glanfield is not in the role. If this were to happen, the crucial question is, where will the role reside in the DFS organisational structure, and at what level? Its next iteration will speak volumes about the degree of importance the O’Farrell government places on the use of ICT in Government and its role in driving innovation and yielding the much sought after savings.

ICT reforms implemented to date

The Pearce/ Coutts-Trotter partnership yielded substantial ICT reform achievements:

  • A new and robust ICT governance framework;
  • The release of an ambitious ICT Strategy (ICT strategies subsequently released by other jurisdictions show many similarities);
  • The acquisition of 100% ownership of AC3 and the announcement of the intention to sell it;
  • The launch of five cloud pilots (at least two of which are of considerably more substance than those yet launched in other states); and
  • Major ICT procurement reforms.

Unfinished business

However the implementation of the ICT Strategy is ongoing and a significant number of the Strategy’s Year 2 deliverables are due in the remaining five months of this year.

By Calendar Q3:

  • An Information Management Community of Expertise to improve information sharing and management;
  • A governance framework for an integrated approach to performance and management information;
  • A common approach to information management and standards;
  • Guidelines for agencies to undertake industry engagement in their own right, so the process and outcomes are repeatable and consistent;
  • An open access licensing framework across government (commencing in Q3 2013 with completion by 2015);
  • A directory of key information assets that can be shared across agencies; and
  • Strategic asset management systems and contracts that allow assets and services to be pooled.

By Calendar Q4:

  • A standard information architecture approach across government; and
  • Centres of Excellence in NSW Government agencies established to act as custodians of strategic information assets (Q4 2013 and ongoing).

Also outstanding is an announcement regarding the agencies and projects which were the beneficiaries of the ICT reinvestment pool. The ICT reinvestment pool was created in 2009-10 following the Treasury led ICT review of costs in a process which mirrored the Gershon Review in Canberra. $290 million has been reinvested over the past four years, and it is understood that Pearce’s announcement of the latest (and final) round of funded projects was imminent, prior to his sacking.

View the Finance profile on GovFacts >>>


Related Articles:

Opinion: Coutts-Trotter required at FACS as a pair of safe hands; leaves behind ICT stewardship legacy that may be hard to match

Moving ICT procurement away from CapEx to OpEx is a key goal according to departing NSW GCIO Michael Coutts-Trotter

ICT consultation unveils the NSW Government’s priorities for 2013-14

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  • NSW
  • Finance & Services
  • Andrew Constance
  • Deaprtment of Finance and Services
  • Greg Pearce
  • Laurie Glanfield
  • Michael Coutts-Trotter