CIO50 2018 #26-50: Andy Wood, Department of Finance (WA)
Andy Wood believes the biggest challenge as a tech chief in government is disrupting a sector that has been built on the premise of keeping things stable and consistent.
Wood, who is executive director, corporate services at the Western Australian Department of Finance says that quite often, government IT leaders and CIOs face multiple conflicting challenges.
“Government CIOs face the expectation to innovate and transform which competes against an environment of increasing security risks, reducing budgets and compliance-focused policies. But these challenges can successfully overcome by considering business and technology opportunities together, not in isolation,” he says.
Wood and his team have certainly overcome these challenges, transition the agency from an on-premise environment to a new secure, consumption-based ICT model with systems and apps hosted in the Microsoft Azure cloud.
Up until recently, the Department of Finance owned three data centres, which housed all its applications and workloads.
“Delivery and support of these proven to be capital-intensive, slow in delivering services, costly in terms of support, inefficient for managing demand in inept in meeting business needs,” says Wood.
“The associated ICT operating model was also outdated. The model was not service-oriented and the associated financial model previously in place was not suitable for the business to have visibility of its costs,” he says.
The new approach, dubbed the Digital Finance Transition Program, has drastically changed the way government businesses use ICT resources
and receive support. More than 2oo products were created to define, plan and execute the transition to the new model.
Finance has deployed Microsoft collaboration apps such as O365, Skype for Business and OneNote; machine learning in cash analytics; artificial intelligence and chatbot technologies; automation power scheduling; and PowerBi.
The collaboration apps have enabled the organisation to adopt activity-based working which has cut accommodation costs by 20 per cent while providing geographically-dispersed staff with improved access to resources.
The move to the cloud has enabled the department to decommission three datacentres, reduce the number of physical servers it runs from 880 to 290, and redirect ICT resources from managing hardware to providing more valuable services.
“ICT is now a managed service delivery, consumption-based model which costs 50 per cent less than the previous owner/operator model,” says Wood.
Wood and his team have also established a portfolio management office to enable staff to make more informed investment choices; they created a shared data platform for integration and data analytics, further maturing the use of business intelligence and AI, Wood says.
A new direction
Wood says that from the beginning of this program, he set a clear direction and gained buy-in from executives on his intention to establish good practices and reusable frameworks that could be used by other departments and agencies.
“With no prior established program management capability within the department, I set about to develop and mature the capability in-house from day one. Two years on, I have positioned Finance as an exemplar for future government agencies adopting cloud services,” Wood says.
“This has been supported by three independent assurance activities known as ‘gateway reviews’, which have given the transformation program back-to-back green ratings. This has never been achieved before in the WA public sector.”
Wood says the biggest lesson he learnt during his career is that when it comes to cultural change, most people default to focusing on what it is they do and how they do it.
“This makes cultural change immensely difficult,” he says. “Over time, I’ve learnt that in order to enact real successful cultural transformation, the key is engaging people to focus on why they do the things they do rather than the processes they follow to do it.
“If you invest the time to help people understand the purpose of their roles and the outcomes they need to deliver, they become far more willing to accept new ways of working and ultimately, they will change themselves,” he says.