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A getting to know you and where government & ICT are focusing on Q & A

Thursday, 10 Dec 2015

Ernest Stabek, Chair of the Victorian Government Relations Sub-committee, interviewed Grahame Coles, Chief Enterprise Solutions Officer with the Department of Premier & Cabinet, Victoria.

Ernest: Tell us about your new role and what you have been focusing on over the last 5 months.

Grahame: The Chief Enterprise Solutions Officer role has two focus areas:

  • Whole-of-Victorian-Government ICT, which centres on the development of strategy, policy and initiatives that span across departments and agencies.
  • Shared services such as fleet, accommodation, payroll and CenITex. This area focuses on creating and implementing governance and performance management frameworks, as well as strengthening existing shared services and developing new ones.

These focus areas support the Victorian Government’s public sector reform agenda and clearly position ICT as an enabler for business priorities.

Since June, we have been putting together an ICT blueprint for the public service. We anticipate publicly releasing it in early 2016.

The ICT blueprint aims to provide the public service and industry with a clear idea of the government’s priorities. It also establishes a clear link with public sector reform, which includes strengthening the capability of the Victorian Public Service (VPS) and revising how we procure ICT services in government.

Another key focus in the last five months has been establishing a shared services governance model and performance management templates, which are now on our website.

Ernest: What have been your top five achievements? 

Grahame: Last year, we developed the Victorian Government Digital Blueprint with Deloitte. It formed an important component of the new ICT blueprint and gave us good insight into standardisation opportunities across government, in areas including:

  • Citizen engagement
  • Information sharing
  • Finance
  • Human resources
  • Procurement
  • Workplace (training and modernisation of tools for VPS, and ensuring a consistent experience across departments)
  • Network, including cyber security.

Ernest: What have you learnt in the last 12 months since transitioning into the new government?

Grahame: The change of government has had a significant impact on ICT direction, including the creation of the Office of the Special Minister of State and the use of ICT to support his priorities, which include information sharing, government transparency, accountability  and citizen engagement.

It also resulted in the cessation of the VicConnect and Atlas projects, which both sought to outsource specific government ICT services. This followed a comprehensive review that concluded these projects would not necessarily have ensured ICT services within government became more efficient or cost effective.

The change of government also elevated and strengthened the role of shared services on the government’s agenda. The ICT blueprint has been adjusted to support this new direction.

Given my commercial background, this is the first time I have gone through a significant change of government party and policy. It has certainly been a learning experience and akin to changing a company board in the private sector.

Ernest: What do you plan to do in the next 3-6 months that will make a significant difference?

Grahame: I plan to start some of the ICT blueprint actions. For example, network and cyber security standards will be key priorities; we have already appointed a vendor to assist in developing a high-level design and supporting business case for these standards.

We also need to move towards a whole-of-government network that allows public sector workers to easily access their work systems from home or any government office, regardless of which department owns the office.

Ernest: What is new in the soon to be announced Vic Gov Digital ICT blueprint?

Grahame: The ICT blueprint contains key government priorities. These will replace the former government ICT strategy.

The first priority is  the establishment of Service Victoria, which was announced in the recent Victorian Government Budget. The remaining priorities are new and will be released with the ICT blueprint in early 2016.

Ernest: What is the greatest challenge (risk/opportunity) ahead for ICT in government?

Grahame: Our biggest challenge will be getting the ICT blueprint’s priorities actioned through a federated governance structure.

To address this, we have strengthened our governance model by using the Victorian Secretaries Board as the approval mechanism for ICT strategy, policy and standards.

Another challenge will be ensuring that we continually improve government processes related to ICT project delivery. We will be working collaboratively with industry to improve how we run ICT-enabled projects, with a focus on gateway implementation, independent assurance on project status and tracking, and ensuring we have the right capabilities and contracts in place.

Ernest: What would you like to say to the members of the ACS about the future of Digital ICT in government and how they as ICT professionals can best prepare and engage with the future of ICT within government and Industry?

Grahame: I think that ICT is changing and therefore ICT roles are changing. The government is a good at providing a training and development path for ICT graduates. We need to leverage this model.

We also need to improve our ICT workforce capability and ensure we foster future architects, cloud specialists and service designers. This means moving the focus of a team’s composition away from operations and towards strategy and procurement. Historically, we have relied too much on external resources to do this work. We need to build that capability internally if we want to attract and retain staff to ensure that the Victorian Government continues to be an employer of choice.

The maturity of cloud-based solutions, including the ability of the business to subscribe and consume these services, places a greater emphasis on the value of internal ICT professionals over cloud’s direct business offerings.

In some companies, the CIO is becoming the Chief Digital Officer (CDO). In other companies, they are creating a CDO outside of the CIO role. Sometimes this decision appears to be made based on how happy the company is with its internal ICT professionals. We need to be mindful of this and embrace the new environment, rather than be seen as the people that say ‘you can't do that’.

Ernest: What are your favourite APPs and why?

Grahame: I am wedded to my iPad. I have my own device for work and personal use. I try to work as paperlessly as possible, through sync-and-share–type solutions.

In terms of apps, I use Notability for all my note-taking. For reminders, I use Apple’s standard app. I also use Apple iBooks and Amazon. I love reading science fiction and I’m currently reading Robin Hobb’s books.

I have an iMac, iPhone and iPad. It is easier to have one ecosystem that automatically syncs devices. I can read my ebook on my iPhone, then switch to another device that knows which page I am on.

My priority is synchronisation. Regardless of device, it is all there and it is instantaneous!

Ernest: What do you like to do escape from the rigours of your role?

Grahame: I enjoy spending time with my family and have always kept a line between work and home. This allows me a place to escape, away from work. I very much look forward to weekend cafe breakfasts with my wife and also enjoy time in the wine valleys surrounding Melbourne. I don't actually drink much wine, but I like getting out of the city.

Ernest: Thank you Grahame for sharing and providing us with insights in what is coming in ICT in government and the challenges ahead!