Macquarie Bank digital chief defects to become NSW government tech overlord

Damon Rees, NSW’s new tech chief. pic supplied.


The New South Wales government has lured across Macquarie Bank technology chief Damon Rees to become its new whole-of-government digital services and tech overlord, as the state ramps up its vigorous efforts to put the calibre of public sector online services up there with retailers, banks and global platforms like Amazon.

Minister for Finance, Services and Property Dominic Perrottet and Minister for Innovation and Better Regulation Victor Dominello revealed on Tuesday that Mr Rees will take on the new role, which reports into NSW Department of Finance, Services and Innovation Secretary Martin Hoffman, another high-profile senior executive defector from private industry to public servitude.

On top of the kudos of being able to poach some bank talent, Mr Ree’s appointment creates a powerful new dual-function function role at the top of the Baird Government’s tech tribe – which has so-far enjoyed considerable success in transforming public facing government services through rapidly enabling online transactions and a relentless focus on improving user experiences.

Under the new oversight structure revealed by Ministers Perrottet and Dominello, Mr Rees gets the title of “Government Chief Information & Digital Officer” (GCIDO), a job description that fuses together supervision of the government’s technology front and back ends.

The previous Labor government had attempted to get some tangible cohesion over technology purchasing and use via the creation of a whole-of-government Chief Information Officer, a move that faltered amid the rapid succession of ministers and premiers in its final term.

What’s changed significantly in the awkwardly conjoined CDO/CIO title is that larger projects – the kind that have collectively blown-up billions of dollars between them across Australia’s states – will now have to run through Mr Ree’s office before getting a green light.

“The GCIDO will be the senior technology role within NSW Government, reporting to the Secretary of the Department of Finance, Services and Innovation,” the statement from Mr Perrottet and Mr Dominello said.

“Individual agencies will retain Chief Information Officers but all major ICT projects across government departments will require approval and oversight by the GCIDO.”

The state added that Mr Rees’ role “will also entail oversight of major government ICT projects, ensuring they are delivered on time, on budget, and deliver benefits for agencies and citizens.”

The strength of that statement indicates that the Baird government is becoming markedly less tolerant of larger scale systems overhauls and projects involving global tech vendors that frequently run over time and budget.

It is understood that part of the approach the Baird government is keen on is the application of private sector performance management of suppliers, particularly the sharing of project risk, so that it pays for successful outcomes rather than the number of lines of code or hours worked.

Also expected is a crackdown on the purchasing and deployment of overly proprietary systems that later create incompatibilities when they need to work together across multiple organisations.

Mr Dominello specifically called out the need to “ensure better integration across departments and agencies.”

Mr Rees starts as GCIDO role from 30th May. Aside from leading Macquarie’s tech efforts, he has held positions as the Chief Technology Officer and interim Chief Information Officer at Woolworths, and as Westpac’s Head of Integrated Delivery.

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