by Byron Connolly

David Gollan’s 10 IT fundamentals

Jun 16, 2014 5 mins
Careers IT Leadership

David Gollan joined Western Australia’s largest health fund, HBF, as CIO in 2013. Since then, he has introduced a model to his IT team that identifies the 10 most important things a CIO must address during his or her tenure.

He shared these essentials with attendees at the recent CIO Summit in Perth.

1. Does IT understand the business?

Gollan says he really “hammers” his business analysts and IT architects on this point because they are generally the face of IT.

“If those guys truly don’t understand the business, they’ve got no credibility,” he argues. “The business is going to be reluctant to deal with them. So it’s something as simple as this, but if you haven’t got that right, I find a lot of it actually doesn’t flow through.

2. Is there an IT vision and strategy?

“I’m one of those people that believes you don’t need an IT vision that is separate to your business vision,” Gollan says.

By 2018, HBF wants to be known as more of an organisation that improves the health and well-being of its members, rather than just a health insurer.

“That’s ingrained in us – I don’t need to corrupt that in IT but what we did do in IT at HBF is that we came up with our own brand,” Gollan says.

“So I challenged the [IT] guys, [asking them] ‘if you asked the business what they thought of IT, what are they going to say?’

“Even now, what they say about us is maybe 60 per cent favourable, 40 per cent unfavourable. But the position we want to get to is that we want them to say that IT understand our business, we trust them to deliver for us and they’ll do it quickly.

“With that brand, that helps us really drive the behaviours in IT that we’re after and that’s what I believe is the important part of the vision,” Gollan says.

3. Are objectives aligned to business goals?

It’s common sense, but many organisations are not creating plans that align IT to business goals, Gollan says.

“I’m a massive believer in having the business and IT plan aligned to it. And the goals in the IT plan cascade down to the team members. We’ve all heard loads of theory on it – but it’s really important.

“It’s something we are doing now for the next financial year, trying to do even better than we did last year to make sure whoever you are in IT, you can see what you are working on this year and what you want to accomplish,” he says.

4. Is there an information architecture?

Gollan says it’s vital that organisations understand what processes and systems are currently running and look at what will be required in five years’ time.

“Have a roadmap that gets you there because it’s going to take multiple years to get there,” he says.

5. Is there clear IT governance?

“Governance is a broad term and I’m a simple guy; I like to break it down to this,” he says.

“The business has got to have a say in what you are doing. I’ve worked in too many IT organisations and seen too many [situations] where if the business don’t have a say, they are looking at the millions of dollars that IT is investing and say ‘who prioritised that? Why has that got more business value than what we are doing?

6. Does IT innovate?

Gollan says innovation is huge and in the past, when he was in reactive mode as a CIO, he didn’t allocate enough time to it.

“But the 10 fundamentals says pick some people, allocate time each month to find out how you can improve the business and go and present it to the business,” he says.

7. Is the operating model optimal?

Work out the organisational structure and the best way work can flow through the organisation, Gollan says.

“At HBF, we are effectively a very big software house so we visualise the software development lifecycle when we are going through that.”

8. Is IT a high performing team?

“Everybody talks about high performance teams but it’s a bit like teenage sex – everybody talks about it but who is really doing it?” he says.

HBF’s senior leadership team allocates time to building a high performance team each month.

“We worked out where we are now, where we wanted to be and now we’ve got a focused plan on how we are going to get there.”

9. Are enterprise IT risks being managed?

Managing enterprise IT risks is key but it’s a utility, it’s something organisations must do.

“The Target CIO [was retrenched] because they had one of the biggest breaches in history of people hacking into debit cards over there,” Gollan says.

In January this year, credit and debit card data was stolen from Target, as well as customer names, mailing and email addresses and phone number. The breach affected up to 70 million people.

10. Does IT measure and communicate performance?

Plenty of IT organisations may communicate their performance internally but if you don’t do it externally to the business, they will wonder what you are doing, Gollan says.

“If they wonder what you are doing, that’s when your cost will come under the microscope, because they are not seeing value there.”

Do you agree with David Gollan’s 10 fundamentals? Do you have some of your own? Email Byron Connolly at

Follow Byron Connolly on Twitter:@ByronConnolly

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