by George Nott

CIO 2016 #26-50: Richard Host, NSW Department of Finance, Services & Innovation

Nov 24, 2016
Technology Industry

The NSW Emergency Services SAP implementation has created one of Australia’s largest government enterprise resource systems. The system supports more than 100,000 staff and volunteers across New South Wales, in turn making every one of the state’s 7.6 million residents all the more safe.

It provides management of all resources across one of the world’s largest emergency service, including the management of finances, staff, volunteers, equipment, fleet, inventory, properties, and learning. This major transformation programme was led by CIO Richard Host.

“The program took courage, collaboration, a can-do attitude, and a vision to understand the potential of powerful integration within a single system and the value that can then be derived through analytics,” says Host. “The NSW Emergency Services have used this transformation program to not only move into the modern era of emergency management, but to become a leader in the NSW public sector.

The state’s emergency services needed to have a trustworthy single source of truth for people, assets and places. This required the significant effort to replace a portfolio of disconnected systems – spanning three agencies – with a single integrated ERP with powerful reporting capability.

By the beginning of 2016, every legacy system had been replaced through this single instance SAP system.

Because the program spanned many agencies, but was run out of just one of them, it had to overcome major cultural barriers including what Host describes as “suspicion, fear, and issues of control”.

Can-do leadership

“It required a combination of can-do leadership mixed with humility, pragmatism, patience, transparency and a genuine desire to bring about the greater good for everyone,” says Host.

“What started as a simple desire to build a better system to make a safer community, has become the foundation for the State’s third largest cluster and possibly the largest of its type in Australian government.”

Innovation is in everything Host does, he says, and in the past years he has been responsible for the deployment of the Adashi system into fire-engines to provide real-time information to firefighters and touchscreen status changes. Combined with Automatic Vehicle Location it has helped improve response times and situational awareness.

He also initiated Miinder, which uses predictive data models and machine learning to predict and model potential emergencies. Host is currently working on 3D augmented reality for viewing spatial information overlaid with real-time information.

“It is important for the CIO to have a positive attitude to motivate the team,” he says. “Painting the positive vision of where we can be and how we can be is something everyone wants to subscribe to. Everyone wants someone who can help them achieve through active and genuine partnering.”