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Super ministry CIO

Stephen Bell | April 25, 2013
Warren Shera, CIO of the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, is faced with the challenging task of reconciling the ICT needs of four departments, which bring very different established needs, priorities and styles of operation to the mix.

"In some respects," he says, "this opportunity with MBIE in bringing the four foundation entities into one has a lot of similarities with some aspects of my previous career in outsourcing, where [the emphasis was on] transition of people, transition of systems; getting those systems up and running in a Day One scenario and then changing them over time into a better and more sleek and efficient platform."

Is much of that 1990s public sector background of relevance today? "I think there's a foundation there when it comes to people-change and how to embrace some of these changes. You're right, in terms of technology some of that work counts for nothing; but certainly the history, the learnings and experiences over the years stand you in good stead."

What was particularly attractive about the MBIE assignment? In reply, he points to the MBIE charter: "That reminds me every day; we're playing a central role in maintaining and developing a strong New Zealand economy -- being part of an environment in which we could improve the way in which services are delivered.

"Growing the NZ economy in the context of that is part of my history," he says. Also part of his history, he reflects, is experience of some negative aspects of a multinational's venture into the New Zealand market.

"I spent a lot of time working in the multinational environment and a lot of time in that context with EDS. In the latter stages of my time with EDS there was a significant drive to move positions and workloads out of New Zealand. Taking a personal view of this, I got my start as a trainee computer operator and a lot of those opportunities have been disappearing -- being offshored.

"So the opportunity to be part of something that was about growing New Zealand for New Zealanders was pretty exciting. But even if you put those aspirational areas to one side, the ability and opportunity to be part of a team that was going to be front and centre in creating that ICT platform for the MBIE environment is pretty exciting too."

Does he anticipate he'll bring a different leadership style to the unified entity than the constituent departments have been used to? "In the first couple of weeks in my new role here we brought together essentially that new structure and a new leadership team. So by the end of last year, I was able to appoint my direct reports."

Shera himself reports to Peter Thomas, who runs the corporate services group. Thomas, former Defence CIO, reports to MBIE chief executive David Smol. "The core corporate services: IT, legal, building premises, procurement; and finance are in there as well reporting to Peter; we as a group are providing those services out across the wider organisation.


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