Sydney Water’s Chris Ford has only been in the role of CIO since September, but he already has a number of challenges before him.
It’s not that his predecessor, Tim Catley, didn’t do a good job.
“As an organisation, my predecessor has set up IT very well,” Ford said.
But the combination of looming projects and internal management are, as always, something to be cautious of.
“We’ve got a huge amount of disruptive technologies coming around social media,” he told CIO Australia.
Ford took over the CIO role at the utility following Catley’s resignation in June, leaving his UK home and a history as IT director of Severn Trent Water.
As part of an ongoing revamp of Sydney Water’s IT infrastructure, Ford will oversee a number of internal projects including new customer and work management systems set to go live next year, as well as an information management project.
“That’s a significant investment and a significant amount of investment across the organisation to manage information and data more effectively,” Ford said.
The challenge, for Ford, lies around getting IT done while maintaining the department’s agility, responsiveness and flexibility.
“Managing the line between the right level of security around data control and giving people the tools they need to be flexible in their role while driving innovation in the role will be a huge challenge.”
That changing role of IT has added another layer of complexity to Ford’s role.
“There are some huge challenges in terms of just driving through change across the organisation and delivering IT to support that change,” he said.
“The IT industry as a whole is going through a huge turning point in its development. Organisations historically, and especially CIOs in a large organisation, pretty much ensure the data is secure and that the large programs are delivered.”
Ford stressed that employees take first priority in his typical day, but the first-time CIO is still forming an understanding of Sydney Water’s needs.
“As CIO I like to spend certainly a proportion of the day out with my executive team and users to really understand the business side of things,” he said. “That’s been a focus over the last couple of months through visiting the sites, and seeing how the organisation operates.”
“On a typical day I would also spend time with my management team actually making sure we’re focused on the right things, that the large IT programs are on schedule, and that our operational services are being delivered effectively. So it’s a balance between an internal focus and an external focus.”
When it came to Ford naming his favourite gadget, he reluctantly cited the iPad as reaching the top of his list.
“I could shoot myself for saying that but I do have one at home and it is an excellent tool,” he said. “It provides me with so much useful information in a very flexible way.”