by Chloe Herrick

Q&A: ASIC CIO, Rachel Johnson-Kelly

Sep 30, 20115 mins

Rachel Johnson-Kelly has been at the helm of the Australian Securities and Investments Commission’s (ASIC) IT infrastructure for over three years now.

Johnson-Kelly was brought into the organisation specifically to head up a five year technology change program that, at the time, was struggling to get off the ground. As CIO she has spent significant time and effort to reduce risks in the aging technology fleet, introduce new functionality and change the business model to encourage senior leaders to buy into IT projects. She was also a nominee in the 2011 Telstra NSW Business Women’s Awards.

She sat down with CIO Australia to discuss what her role involves and the big issues facing CIOs.

What does an average work day involve for you?

I usually get into the office anywhere between 8 and 9am depending on the day and I’m usually gone by about 6 or 6.30pm.

My day at work is mostly meetings; meetings with vendors to find out what’s happening, networking with colleagues in the IT industry across government and non-government, and also having internal meetings with my team to review financial situations or where key projects are at.

I’m also on about eight internal boards within ASIC which are not just IT; many of them are boards that projects are being implemented by the business or I’m on the ASIC property board to review what we do with our property fleet and decisions we need to make around that to make that efficient.

When I get home I attend to my family and then probably three nights per week I log on for an hour or two at home just to clear emails or read documents in preparation for the next day’s meetings, sign documents; that type of thing.

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

I think probably the biggest challenge for us at the moment is staffing, we’re a government agency so we have some restrictions and we are competing for resources with all the major banks and the other major institutions in Sydney as we’re a Sydney-based IT organisation. So we can’t always offer the salaries that they may be able to get at the banks, but what I would say is that some of the work we’re doing is incredibly exciting and it is quite easy to see the impact that you have for the end consumer. We recruit on the basis of the technology program that we’ve got underway and what that can do with people’s resumes, especially with some of the new tools we’re using which they wouldn’t get an opportunity to use in some other places.

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

The main ones would be the moving of one of our data centres, the release of a new online portal which happens next year and many of the others are just internal technology projects. A lot of government change has come through since I started, with legislative driven-change which has resulted in a massive amount of additional technology being added to the environment so all of that has culminated into a pretty significant transformation program which in total runs for about five years and we’re three and a half years in to that.

What’s next on the IT agenda?

Finish this program in the next 18 months; that’s definitely on the IT agenda. And then just to continue to mature the organisation. When you think we’re a small organisation that had not undergone a lot of change three and a half years ago, now we’ve undertaken a massive amount of change, we’ve injected a huge amount of skills and it’s just about bedding that down and continuing to improve on it and make it efficient.

What are the biggest issues facing CIOs today?

I think keeping abreast of all of the technology change; there is just so much happening. I think the other thing is just to be able to keep in constant communication with the business and aligned with their strategies.

At the end of the day, as IT we are a support organisation for the rest of the business and so we need to be really clear where the business is heading and how we best support that with technology because it does have such a long pipeline, you need to understand where the business is heading in two and three years’ time, not one year’s time, otherwise you can’t be ready to support them.

What’s your favourite gadget?

Probably my BlackBerry: I never leave anywhere without it even on holidays.

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