by Mark Chillingworth

Which top Whitehall CIO will replace Joe Harley?

Nov 23, 20113 mins

We reported on Tuesday that Joe Harley is leaving his post as CIO for the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and as Government CIO when he retires in the spring of 2012. DWP, which is already looking for a deputy CIO having lost Bill McCluggage to EMC, said it would start looking for a CIO immediately and the Cabinet Office will begin looking for a new Government CIO separately and soon. 
Harley became the government CIO in February of this year when John Suffolk stepped aside. Harley jointly led the IT roles at DWP and the Cabinet office and it is my prediction that with the government keen to promote an era of cost cuts and keeping within budget that the next government CIO will follow in Harley’s footsteps and run the government CIO role alongside their daily work as CIO of a major Whitehall department. Which begs the obvious question – which of the Whitehall CIOs will be given the prestigious role? 
John Taylor, director general of information at the Ministry of Defence could be a likely candidate. Taylor is undoubtedly one of the big beasts of the Whitehall CIO corridors. But stretching a defence resource across the entire government could be politically sensitive. 
Whitehall, 10 Downing Street and the Conservative Party tend to be protective of the British military and our forces are certainly stretched at present with their duties in Afghanistan and Libya. There is a great deal of change going through the military and the demands placed on our forces are growing while its budget plummets. Therefore the Cabinet Office may feel that Taylor has enough on his plate as it is. 
Tim Wright has been with the Department for Education since 2007 and the department has avoided any headlines in that time. He has good commercial experience from Metronet, Haliburton, Amec and BP as well as stints in consulting. 
The CIO double act at HMRC cannot be ignored either. In a recent CIO interview and from his presentation at the CIO Summit Deputy CIO Mark Hall is certainly getting things done as the department’s 13 Machine rationalisation strategy gathers pace. Anyone who’s got HMRC experience also has plenty of knowledge about running a big outsourcing contracts and merger and acquisitions. Both of which could come in handy. 
Phil Pavitt, who is both CIO and change director, has committed to getting HMRC to buy in to the 13 Machine and change agendas going and from his time at Transport for London and Centrica gained a reputation for straight dealings with vendors, which resulted in some significant rationalisation and savings for his organisations. 
If Pavitt has galvanised the top echelons of HMRC successfully then he could well be the right person to galvanise all of Whitehall’s IT leaders to act as one, cut costs, reduce duplication and deliver an efficient experience for the citizens of Great Britain. It’s going to be an interesting spring in 2012.