Listed below are the finalists for the 2017 iTnews Benchmark Awards. The winners for 2017 can be found here.
FEDERAL GOVERNMENT CIO OF THE YEAR:
Ramez Katf - Australian Taxation Office
Love it or hate it, there is no denying that the ATO has revolutionised the process of lodging a tax return, taking the sting out of arguably one of the most painful government transactions Australians are expected to carry out each year.
Its digital lodgement solution has put the revenue collector within striking distance of its vision for no-touch simple tax returns, where automated, pre-filled forms only need a click of approval from a desktop, tablet or even mobile phone.
In its third year, myTax became available to all individual taxpayers for the first time in 2016 and was used by 3 million Australians.
A long way from the pages of paper forms of the past, ATO clients can now login to myTax on their smartphone using voice authentication, and the agency brags that returns can be completed in five minutes, thanks to the ability to pull and pre-fill user information from other government sources.
Lesley Seebeck - Bureau of Meteorology
Replacement of BoM's Supercomputer
CIO Lesley Seebeck has achieved the not-inconsiderable task of delivering a world-class government supercomputer on time and on budget in just two years.
The Bureau of Meteorology, which relies on high performance computing to crunch through its complex climatic modelling, saw the writing on the wall in 2014, knowing it would need to move to a new HPC deal by 2016 when its existing hardware would no longer cater to system enhancements.
In September it seamlessly switched over to a new Cray XC40 facility 16 times faster than its old supercomputer, which will underpin and enhance the critical services the BoM delivers to a range of meteorology consumers, from emergency services to Defence and climate researchers and scientists. Shorter intervals between model runs means the BoM can deliver better, faster intelligence in situations when the smallest delay could be the difference between a home being saved or a home being lost in one of Australia’s notorious summer bushfires.
Its new-found computational power places it amongst the top ten meteorological agencies in the world.
John Sheridan - Department of Finance
In many ways, the Department of Finance’s govCMS program is the antithesis of government IT projects in the usual mould.
Since 2014, CTO John Sheridan and his team have stood up the collective, open source web content management system and hosting service with no big-bang upfront funding, and no whole-of-government adoption mandate.
Instead, Finance has steadily iterated on an effort to address a widely felt public sector pain point.
Based on the Drupal open-source CMS, Sheridan and the team has leveraged the scale of government in Australia not only to provide a cheap web hosting solution, but to bring a powerful community of developers together to share new functionality.
By all accounts, govCMS has eclipsed expectations. In its second year it has already doubled its predicted adoption rate and currently supports 104 live government websites, with 29 more in the works. Despite the low initial outlay, it is tracking beyond targets to deliver millions of dollars back to government coffers by avoiding unnecessary expenditure on websites and supporting software.
FINANCE CIO OF THE YEAR:
Mark Gay - ME Bank
Five years ago ME Bank identified that the only way to get near its strategic goal of tripling its customer base by 2020 was to be able to offer a compelling experience for end users - something its existing IT environment would not allow.
It opted to completely rebuild rather than renovate its existing system architecture to give itself the ability to plug into new technologies quickly and easily, without the worry of maintaining old systems.
ME implemented seven new software systems and one million lines of code over the past four years in a complete redesign of its IT architecture intended to future-proof the bank.
Despite an initial series of short outages immediately following the core banking overhaul aspect of the project, the transformation effort is already paying dividends through a huge reduction in time-to-market for new products, faster home loan settlements resulting in more revenue, and growth in customer numbers.
Dave Chapman - Teachers Mutual Bank
Dell Boomi integration
TMB’s many years of effort to prepare its IT environment for the digital age is paying off after the implementation of the last piece of the puzzle, its Dell Boomi-based integration platform.
After upgrading its core banking platform, introducing a new data warehouse, and implementing a single-customer view, TMB has now threaded all the pieces together via the on-demand cloud integration tool.
Importantly, the integration is allowing TMB to quickly and easily capitalise on the innovative third-party mobile apps TMB anticipated its customers would be seduced by.
The bank’s IT team managed to sell a technical capability to its board, and convince its core banking system provider to publish APIs and extensible services, to get the program up and running.
It is reaping rewards through a reduction in IT operating costs and the millions TMB saved through using the platform to avoid a core banking system replacement.
Ian Gibson - SuperChoice
The hard June 30 deadline for compliance with the government’s new SuperStream superannuation system gave SuperChoice no choice but to address its constrained IT environment - which it freely admits was near breaking point.
But instead of simply meeting its obligations, the company decided to go the whole hog and entirely rewrite its core legacy platform into a microservices architecture and deploy it into a multi-public cloud environment, alongside a complete overhaul of its development practices.
It turned from minimal dev and test environments and expensive and slow provisioning (taking ten or more weeks) into spinning up new virtual environments in under an hour, thanks to a cultural overhaul to agile and DevOps practices, and by growing the IT team by almost 400 percent.
It is now paying far less operational costs annually and has drastically reduced deployment errors, while bringing in new revenue from moving away from a single user acceptance testing environment for all clients to dedicated environments for individual firms.
INDUSTRIAL CIO OF THE YEAR:
Shaun Gregory – Woodside Energy
Cognitive computing program
If the enterprise world makes good on its potential to harness artificial intelligence (AI), Woodside will be where many look for clues on how to succeed.
The liquefied natural gas producer started its journey by building a cognitive system that allows staff to search 30 years of collective knowledge for answers to questions.
They have since gone on to build 12 cognitive instances, tackling everything from geotechnical data to HR, and recently revealed Willow, a virtual avatar that will let staff speak to a system that can search for answers across all their enterprise systems.
It’s a program where payback could run into the billions, and one that is setting a benchmark for how we might all interact with IT systems and data in the not-too-distant future.
Rob Downing – Hanson Australia
Dynamic mix control of ready-mixed concrete
There are tens of thousands of combinations of raw materials that form recipes for different types of concrete.
These recipes need to be maintained and tweaked according to statistical analysis. There is no room for error – any miscalculations can be catastrophic.
Hanson Australia decided to take this complex materials science problem and turn it into an algorithm capable of calculating the bill of materials for every truck delivery in under one second. Customers can now get quotes in under an hour.
The project was the most highly visible initiative in the company for its life of three years, and handles almost all concrete mix calculations across 220 plants nationwide.
Chris Taylor – Qantas
Migration to the cloud
Qantas has spent several years setting up an enterprise-grade hosting platform utilising public cloud, automating many aspects of infrastructure delivery and management.
It has re-architected Qantas.com for the cloud using microservices, with goals to enable IT to provision new web-based services through the site at the ‘click of a button’.
It’s a journey that many IT shops find themselves on and at varying stages of completion.
But get it right and the rewards are there: not just in cost savings, but increased agility from faster release cycles and greater resiliency against service interruptions that can play havoc with revenue.
CONSUMER CIO OF THE YEAR:
Goran Stefkovski - Kogan
The opportunistic purchase of the Dick Smith online business, sans any of its infrastructure, in April this year saw Kogan’s tech team given just two months to launch a full ecommerce operation for the brand from scratch.
By leveraging existing in-house expertise to remodel the proprietary Kogan platforms and microservices for a new brand, and utilising the auto-scale properties of Kogan’s cloud infrastructure, the team was able to relaunch Dick Smith as a pure-play online store without any additional resources within just one month.
Launching a month ahead of schedule earned the business an unanticipated extra $3 million in revenue from a brand that is now generating around that figure each month in sales for the Kogan group.
Christian McGilloway - Retail Zoo
Free the Fruit
Faced with a slow decline in repeat customers and participation in marketing competitions, Boost Juice parent Retail Zoo was forced to rethink how it connected with its core customers.
It took a gamble and created its first-ever cross-platform mobile app game, integrated with its PoS systems for in-game vouchers offering free drinks.
Taking its cues from Candy Crush, interspersed with a bit of combat, the success of the game saw the firm end up doubling its intended four-week campaign time after the game soared past download forecasts and to the top of the free app charts for a brief stint.
Despite some initial performance hiccups, the team has managed to create a well-designed, fun and compelling marketing tool that has made its mark on bottom-line sales as well as foot traffic in stores.
Alan Perkins - InchcapeV360
Inchcape’s back-end, plagued by manual processes and old, fragmented systems, was nowhere near ready to support the automotive services firm’s vision of being a customer-centric organisation.
In an industry rife with such technological headaches, Inchcape’s IT team stands out for its efforts to push through traditional and steadfast ways of doing things with a proposition to try something new and unknown.
Its V360 project unified data from closed proprietary and fragmented systems into one SQL data warehouse to provide a holistic view of the customer.
The effort has significantly cut down the cost and many hours of effort involved in accessing information, such as for daily functions like determining what cars to order from overseas: this process previously took 40 people a combined 60-80 hours per week to produce 80 spreadsheets, where V360 produces this output in 5 seconds.
HEALTHCARE CIO OF THE YEAR:
John Sutherland - Ramsay Health
Working hand-in-hand with clinicians, Ramsay Health has built a mobile application that promises to deliver advanced time-management capabilities to its doctors.
CIO John Sutherland and his team have built a fully mobile tool that eliminates impediments that can slow a busy doctor down.
Hospitals are complex places where events are unpredictable and rarely run to schedule: the MyPatient+ app keeps the whole surgical team up to date on any changes or delays to rosters in real-time, so they can better organise the rest of their patient care.
It delivers clinicians a full list of their patients, locations, and discharge summaries, and is the first mobile tool to tap directly into a patient’s My Health Record if they have authorised doctor access.
Sutherland and the team have committed to a program of constant improvement that is scheduled to see pathology results, outpatient schedules and clinical telemetry added in the future.
Nasa Walton - West Moreton Hospital and Health Service
In the West Moreton health district of southern Queensland, patients suffering from chronic diseases make up only five percent of hospital numbers, but their care consumes almost 50 percent of hospital budgets.
Walton and team realised that if they could do something to empower even just a fraction of this group to manage their own care from home, it could make a huge difference to the sustainability of hospital operations, and hand precious time back to sufferers.
The HHS has become just the second health service in the world to implement the MeCare telehealth solution, offering customers tailored disease management plans enabled by connected scales, blood pressure and glucose monitors, and video conferencing tools, constantly feeding health data back to a clinical hub where algorithms have been devised to flag any issues in a patient’s status.
West Moreton expects to recruit 200 patients to the scheme by January 2017, and is aiming to reduce preventable hospital admissions for its chronic disease sufferers up to 32 percent.
Mark Hindle - Relationships Australia NSW
Complete Technology Refresh
Relationships Australia NSW has managed to cut an astonishing 25 percent out of the not-for-profit’s IT costs by completely overhauling what was a neglected legacy environment.
The organisation can now direct funds once wasted on high maintenance legacy technology to delivering relationship support services to the community, and can prioritise the IT team’s time towards making services better for its clients.
Hindle inherited 23 RANSW sites running on siloed, dated infrastructure and decided the organisation needed to take drastic action to get ahead of the upgrade cycle.
The IT team centralised all sites onto a new WAN, a new call centre solution, and a new Tier III data centre. New video conferencing facilities have been installed to allow RANSW to deliver safe, anonymous counselling to clients remotely through a private and discreet browser based session.
While it is anticipating financial savings from the effort, the organisation is more confident that it is able to justify the trust its sponsors and champions place in it to improve mental health outcomes and relationships in NSW.
UTILITIES/MEDIA CIO OF THE YEAR:
Kim Wenn – Tabcorp
When a company the size of Tabcorp embarks on the largest global venture in its 22-year history, you know it’s going to be big in both complexity and potential payoff.
The UK market that Tabcorp is after is three times the size of Australia, and in just 173 working days Tabcorp created an end-to-end cloud-based wagering platform to address it.
The new platform also underpins Tabcorp’s Australian operations, so any innovation made on either side of the world can be immediately applied in the other market.
This is a strong case study on architecting for the cloud that puts Tabcorp at the forefront of a highly-competitive sector.
Gurinder Sidhu – Energy Australia
Big data augmented data warehouse platform
EnergyAustralia isn’t alone in wanting to bring its data to life – but it is significantly advanced in its journey.
The company sought insight to fuel innovation and improve the customer experience, overhauling its vast, siloed analytics systems in favour of a single information management architecture.
The financial savings from the program already run into the millions. The data is also powering business revenue streams in the tens of millions of dollars, and this is just the beginning.
Alisa Bowen – News Corporation
Digital site production platform
The online news business is extremely competitive – we should know – and the ability for a site to reach the biggest possible audience requires engaging content.
News Corp has over 500 editors and journalists creating that content worldwide, but it wanted a backend system to support agile and speedy content creation and delivery, and increase the mobile responsiveness of over 30 websites.
The result is a new content management platform based on WordPress, with content APIs and a Node.js system for bespoke requirements.
It is one of the largest Wordpress deployments anywhere in the world, and one that is enabling News Corp to improve site performance and bring innovations to its audience much faster.
EDUCATION CIO OF THE YEAR:
David Abramson - University of Queensland
Infrastructure for Data Intensive Science
Can infrastructure be cool? If so, the University of Queensland’s FlashLite computer and MeDiCI fabric take the cake.
Faced with the challenge of a data tsunami, David Abramson - who took out this category last year - and team needed to find a way to provide infrastructure that could support data-intensive research while simultaneously being easy to use and not too expensive.
The FlashLite parallel computer boasts high-speed SSD and main memory for the ability to store and manipulate large amounts of data, while the MeDiCI fabric moves data around systems, devices, and storage using local data caches - making data appear locally even though it is distributed - to allow for anytime, anywhere access by end users.
The team leveraged off-the-shelf technologies and a commercial data centre for the effort, which originated as an ARC grant. It grew into a multi-university project that brought on six partners, who alongside the federal government have contributed funding to the initiative.
Fiona Rankin - Wollongong University
Early Start Program
The University of Wollongong has embarked on an ambitious and laudable campaign to use technology to break down the barriers of distance and ensure all children and educators have equal access to learning and teaching tools.
Its Early Start program partnered with 41 early childhood centres in rural and remote areas to bring technologies like video conferencing, iPads, and smart whiteboards and tables for improved local learning as well as interaction with other facilities.
The early childhood centres use video conferencing to connect into the Early Start Facility back at UOW, which offers research and discovery spaces that students and teachers can tap into despite the tyranny of distance, providing them teaching and learning tools that would otherwise have been unavailable.
The project required a significant amount of integration work as well as training for educators. It also had the added challenge of ensuring its chosen technology solutions were robust enough to withstand both the challenges of remote locations and the less-than-delicate hands of students.
The payoff for the effort is less in hard dollar return on investment - although the program has generated commercial research income and grant funding - and more on opening up previously unattainable opportunities for rural and remote students, as well as for research and collaboration on early childhood.
William Confalonieri - Deakin University
Deakin University has cemented itself as one of the more digitally-mature universities in Australia, and its latest focus on virtual and augmented reality for new ways of learning shows great promise.
Its cARdiac ECG iOS app uses augmented reality to immerse students in the fundamentals of the heart and electrocardiography (ECG), allowing them to perform a digital ECG and test their understanding of critical cardiac events.
The app is the first deliverable from the university’s three-year DeakinAR program, which will see the introduction of an enterprise-scale solution for creating and managing AR experiences.
While the business value of the full three-year project, launched this year, is yet to be realised, the university has successfully delivered on the cultural and technical competency journey needed to jumpstart the program.
STATE AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT CIO OF THE YEAR:
David Carroll - Adelaide City Council
Carroll's team realised early on that their move to the cloud represented not only an opportunity to save money and replace legacy applications, but to completely future-proof the organisation for the waves of technological advances to come.
Adelaide City Council has eschewed the “lift and shift” option to completely rearchitect its IT environment so it is tailor made for an as-a-service future, doing a complete sweep of its application set to identify those that needed reconfiguration, those that should be left on-premise, and those that should be dumped altogether.
Already, the council’s payroll, HR services, staff directory, email, data management platform, and terminal services have been successfully migrated to the new infrastructure.
Carroll exploited the opportunity to secure portability between different cloud providers using Equinix’s cloud connect, so the council will be ready to make the switch whenever a new, cost-effective solution emerges in dynamic cloud market.
The team has also paid careful attention to documenting the whole process so it can share what it has learned with other councils who might benefit from its journey.
Trevor Hill - Department of Education, Tasmania
Edi (EDucation Information System)
Since 2011, Tasmania’s Department of Education has been working to build a central, system-wide data warehouse and user portal that will put data from 24 previously disparate systems at teachers’ and administrators' fingertips.
Edi is a self-service data interface designed to make it as easy as possible for teachers to keep track of every facet of their student’s progress in near-real time.
It currently holds more than 150 million records on the 195 schools and 64,000 students in the state - information that previously would have taken busy teachers hours to find.
While access to student data is now easily available from a PC, tablet or phone, the team has made sure to protect sensitive data through an identity management matrix that ensures only relevant staff can access the information they need.
The department is already fielding interest from other schools systems in the tool.
Dr Steve Hodgkinson - Department of Health and Human Services, Victoria
Victorian Housing Register Application Online
Victoria’s Housing Register Application Online is unique not only because it is the first end-to-end digital social housing form on offer in Australia, but because it is the first state government service to be integrated into the Commonwealth’s MyGov authentication platform.
CIO Hodgkinson and his team kept the customer experience at heart when they designed the service, which replaces irrelevant parts of what was a 200-page paper form with a dynamically presented questionnaire tailored to the user’s circumstances.
DHHS called in usability testers, UX experts and Vision Australia to help optimise the solution for the its customer base, as part of its first fully-agile project implementation.
By leveraging the existing MyGov platform, the department has avoided huge upfront and ongoing costs.
It has also laid the foundation for a more joined-up user experience when it comes to government transactions, which hopefully will one day be structured around the customer rather than levels of government.