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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.

He says it is important to maintain the overall balance by having members of the wider IS management team taking the lead.

That team is comprised of a head of technology, an information manager, business alignment and solutions manager, and head of project management office. "Between the five of us, we complement each other well and I am very proud of our combined capability," says Soutar.

His chief technology officer Peter Davies, for instance, is in charge of the technology, technical teams and tactics. "That enables me to focus on the three I's: inspiration, innovation, and information."

Last year Soutar reformatted the weekly IS management meetings at NZTA. From a weekly meeting, he decided to hold two sessions every week. The first will be around business and operations and the second is about people "including us," without an agenda, he says. "That has been an important learning and performance improvement for us. We are still a work in progress and I love the challenge of us wanting to get better and better."

So what are some of the key differences that stood out for him, moving from the private sector to a central government agency? Culture is one, he says. "The private sector is naturally competitive. It is very energising; it keeps you on your toes, but it also can be very combative.

"What I very much like in the public sector is how collaborative it is, and how we are coming together to ultimately deliver better public services for our citizens."

At the recent CIO Summit, Soutar discussed some of the lessons learned from rolling out a business transformation programme "around some big potholes".

He and his co-presenter Dean Thompson, head of the NZTA programme management office, examined how the agency worked with internal and external organisations to implement the registry system modernisation or BCP.

The project involved modernising all the registry systems right at the heart of land transport across New Zealand: driver licenses, motor vehicle licensing, road user charges, and safety checks including WoFs and CoFs (warrant of fitness and certificate of fitness). The project involved, among other things, developing a new web interface for 700 screens, converting millions of lines of LINC and Cobol code to .NET, and migrating over one billion records to a Windows platform.

The programme involved over 150 people from across the NZTA and its key partners, including significant technical leadership and service provision from Unisys.

The original estimated cost to replace the registry systems was over $70 million. The outcome, which made the audience cheer twice for Soutar and his co-presenter, was delivering the project at a cost of $8.2 million. He says this was achieved without having to completely rip out and replace the systems and interrupting services.


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