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Q&A: Transport NSW director & group CIO

Q&A: Transport NSW director & group CIO

John Thomas, talks staffing, strategic planning, cultural change and Cloud

Transport NSW director & group chief information officer, John Thomas

Transport NSW director & group chief information officer, John Thomas

What does an average work day involve for you at Transport NSW?

I worked for the RTA for a number of years and transferred to TNSW in September last year and have been focused on developing the following:

  • The strategic direction for my group;
  • The governance issues around the inter-relationships with the Transport agencies;
  • The centralised co-ordination point for the development of a portfolio-wide ICT strategy;
  • An Enterprise Architecture framework and associated standards
  • The standards and policies around auditing of systems
  • The identification of opportunities to rationalise and enhance systems at a corporate level, while still providing an efficient and effective delivery of ICT services to internal users and external clients.

A major focus has been recruiting staff that will make up the Strategic ICT function within Transport NSW. This entails the normal development of job descriptions for all of the roles; advertising; interviewing and, finally, offering of the roles.

I also meet regularly with the other department heads and I am focused on working with them to implement Corporate & Shared Services reform program.

What are some of the major challenges you face in the role of CIO?

Initially it is getting the right staff on board. These staff are here to develop strategic policies, programs and initiatives that are firstly acceptable, implementable and cost effective, and secondly supportable out of a Shared Service environment while continuing to deliver true business benefit.

I am also responsible for the overall ERP strategy for the TNSW cluster. The strategy will provide for a clear context for the approach, a consistent methodology and define and agree the business outcomes. The strategy will define the whole approach to the ERP program and will identify the several sub projects of work required to deliver the most effective and efficient solution for TNSW. There is great diversity across the portfolio from an ICT perspective. The agencies range in size considerably and some of the larger facilities have developed centres of excellence that could be used to support the other organisations.

These are just a few of the focal areas that are emerging as potential critical success factors for TNSW over the coming months, especially in the development of a consistent and comprehensive ICT strategy.

What are some of the recent projects your IT department has been working on?

We are currently putting together our first Cloud based solution for TNSW. I have chosen a relatively low priority, low impact business function and I am using it to build the private Cloud solution at significantly reduced costs, reduced technical complexity and reduced support overheads. If this is successful, as I expect it will be, we will then focus on other opportunities.

We are currently building a TCO model for a single instance of Exchange across the cluster via a MaaS (Messaging as a Service). This will deliver significant dollar savings, reduce overheads, increase functionality and begin to drive a standard identity management program.

We are looking to standardise the disk subsystems used for storage within the Transport Data Centres and also developing a common data centre strategy in-line with current state Government directives.

What are the three biggest issues facing CIO’s today?

It would be fair to say that most CIOs agree that there are 'technical', 'strategic' and 'management' pressures on us all day, every day.

I believe the biggest issue that we face is ‘where do we fit in’ within the organisation that we work for. We are required to provide strategic advice on many large business programs of work that have a major impact on what businesses do and how they do it. We are asked to drive the technology roadmaps, while being required to deliver more projects more cost effectively and efficiently than ever before. It is the life of the modern day CIO.

We have been for many years talking about the need for the CIO to change his or her organisation and I think now is the time to do so. I have been reading, discussing and agree with the current view of the new IT. It’s called 'business technology' (BT).

I believe we all recognise that most businesses are becoming more and more dependant on technology to achieve their business objectives. Therefore as CIOs we need to accept that we have a vital role to play in the strategies of all our businesses and we must be able to define and develop the technology direction for a specific organisation, allowing them to, where applicable, achieve some level of competitive advantage or significant cost savings or deliver increased productivity not seen before.

We must be prepared to put ourselves in the business’s ‘shoes’ and closely link the IT strategy to the Business strategy. We must endeavour to develop strategic processes that firstly start with the business and end with the business. We must engender ongoing relationships with senior business executives to help drive these changes within their organisations.

I am excited by the fact that I can engender such cultural change within my group of IT, now BT, professionals and I am looking forward to supporting Transport NSW to continue to deliver to the Transport Plan those services that are important to the NSW travelling public.

What's your favourite gadget?

My iPhone 4.

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