'It really lifted my team': CIO50 2018 winner, George Hunt

One of our greatest CIO imports reflects on what the CIO50 is really all about as he gets ready to return to good ol' Blighty.

george hunt 2
Sydney Water

CIO50 winner for 2018, Sydney Water CIO George Hunt reflects that while the accolade was obviously a source of personal pride for the tech veteran, it was the impact it had on his entire digital team, the Board and across the wider organisation that really brought home the significance of the award.

“It really lifted my team, the sense that they were working with a senior CIO recognised in this way lifted their own aspirations and achievements, while for the Board it was also seen as something that carried considerable weight in the broader business community,” he told CIO in an exclusive interview.

Now in its fifth year, the CIO50 has become the premier awards program recognising the best minds and greatest achievements in digital innovation and leadership in Australia.

Enter the 2020 CIO50 here.

Past winners have been honored not merely for doing clever things with shiny tech, but for leading projects that have made a real impact across the private and public sectors, often resulting in improved quality of life for communities and citizens. 

In Hunt’s case, taking on the role of CIO with Sydney Water was a huge decision.

It’s a big responsibility managing the core IT systems for a company like Sydney Water, but following the CIO50 award, his remit was expanded to include management of OT (operational technology), including SCADA and other core systems, which ultimately determine the availability and quality of water for more than five million people. 

It’s a trend Hunt notes is occurring not just in industries like utilities with vast physical assets increasingly now becoming ‘digitised’, but also other sectors like financial services, as recently evidenced by Westpac’s appointment of banking tech veteran Scott Collary to its newly created COO role.

Bringing OT and IT together at Sydney Water was, however, a genuine marriage of the ‘old’ with the ‘new’, given parts of physical network are many decades, and in some cases, centuries old.

“The work my team and I had been doing around IoT in particular meant that it made sense for the IT department to bring operational technology under our wing,” Hunt notes.

“But been recognised by the CIO community made it a lot easier to make the case for IT/OT fusion, and for the rest of the executive and the board to ultimately sign off on what was an unprecedented move within the organisation.”

The award also came at a time when Sydney Water was delivering the largest digital transformation program in its history: the replacement of a 32-year-old legacy billing and CRM system with a new platform from SAP based on S4/HANA.

“The award helped position our combined business and delivery team with the myriad of stakeholders at Sydney Water as it sought to rollout this massive change," Hunt added.

He also noted that his calls for greater awareness of - and action around - cyber security are being heeded more in the almost two years since the 2018 CIO50 awards.

It also enabled him to take on a more strategic role for nine months leading ‘customer, strategy and regulation’ at Sydney Water, something that a CIO rarely gets the chance to experience.

Naturally, the award spurred a fair bit of buzz amongst tech industry head-hunters and recruiters.

But something Hunt didn’t expect was a shift in his relationships with vendors, noting that he felt in some ways many, especially the big multinationals, engaged with him – and his team – differently.

Hunt will depart Sydney Water this September after four and half years in the top tech job, returning to his native UK.

Nominate for the 2020 CIO50 here.

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