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On solid ground

Divina Paredes | Aug. 13, 2013
Craig Soutar of the New Zealand Transport Agency talks about the CIO’s 'balancing act' of simultaneously leading through a growing ICT portfolio and delivering core services.


Craig Soutar looks at the role of the chief information officer (CIO) across three dimensions.

"Are you a CIO that is deeply embedded in the organisation, that drives transformation and really doesn't have much to do with technology? Where you have people alongside that do all that?""

"Or are you at the other end of the spectrum, where you are a deep technologist and run a very tight ship, and a respected service provider to the organisation?"

Or, are you someone in the middle that can do both that — and can do more?"

Soutar, CIO of the New Zealand Transport Agency, places himself wherever his business needs him to be. "I can be balanced in the middle and I am comfortable either end of the spectrum."

In fact, this was how Soutar, who was recently named CIO of the Year, answered when asked what would differentiate him from the other finalists for the award.

He has been CIO at the NZTA for over four years, moving there after a transitional period of working as an independent ICT consultant and six years at ANZ National Bank.

The judges, all former CIOs, called Soutar "a role model CIO", who makes a significant contribution to the IT industry in New Zealand. "He is a thought leader contributing to All of Government initiatives, is on the ICT Council, and is an active member of the CIO Forum, as well fulfilling his duties as CIO of the NZ Transport Agency," they noted.

The CIO of the Year was just one of three accolades recently picked up by Soutar and his team. Last year, NZTA completed the registry system modernisation or BCP — which won ICT Project of the Year at the 2012 ITEX Computerworld Awards and more recently, the Networked Government category at the 2013 IPANZ Public Sector Excellence Awards.

When asked about his views on managing such a varied portfolio at the NZTA and involvement in various All of Government forums, Soutar shows a photo of a wooden stool with three legs.

One leg of the stool stands for project delivery, the second as core services including continuous improvement, and the third as capability uplift.

"One of the risks you can have when you devote too much focus to project delivery is that the core services and continuous service improvement leg gets a bit short and makes things wobbly," he says. "One of the things I need to continually check myself and for my organisation is to make sure our investments in all three of those legs are of equal length."

He says this analogy can also apply to his CIO role at NZTA, his collaborative work across the transport sector and to the All of Government opportunities he is involved with.


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