John Baird, who was this week named by the NSW Government as the Chair of its industry-based ICT Advisory Board, has an almost perfect profile for the role for three reasons.
Firstly, he works for a bank.
Baird presently heads Information Enterprise Services at Deutsche Bank, and in the world of business it is the financial services sector which bears the most similarities to the public sector in terms of client service delivery and reliance on IT solutions.
In the Federal arena, agencies such as Centrelink (now the Department of Human Services) frequently benchmarked themselves to the financial institutions.
There should be no shortage of opportunities to share innovative IT solutions, especially with Baird acting as a medium.
Secondly, Baird occupies an appealingly neutral position. He bears no allegiance to any of the major players in the ICT industry.
He is a CIO and therefore a buyer of ICT goods and services rather than a seller of them. Baird is unlikely to be perceived as having a conflict of interest, an issue that almost certainly would have arisen if the Chair had been appointed from the ICT supplier community.
Indeed, as an experienced purchaser of ICT goods and services, Baird should be able to provide a bonus to the government in that he will views about alternative models of procurement or strategic vendor engagement that he could offer without ‘fear or favour’.
Thirdly, Baird should be able to provide a dispassionate and independent view on the solutions that have been chosen by agencies to date because he is not a career bureaucrat. He is not answerable to a Minister or protective of his political tenure.
However, none of these apparent benefits have been espoused as the reasons for the selection. Rather, Finance Minister Greg Pearce said it was his lengthy CV that attracted him to Baird.
“Mr Baird has more than 30 years of private sector experience in delivering change management and implementing and adopting information communications and technology solutions that align with business goals, and that experience was critical to his appointment,” Pearce told Parliament.
The role is charged with keeping the administration up to date with the latest technological developments and best-practice processes being developed within the private sector.
More Advisory Board members will be named in the near future and it will be interesting to see if the remaining appointees are able to stack up so strongly against the neutrality criteria.