Fixing WA Police's IT shop

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Fixing WA Police's IT shop
Mike Schuman

New CIO takes razor to senior, middle management.

When Mike Schuman arrived at WA Police headquarters mid last year to conduct a review of the force’s IT shop, it wasn't in the best state.

Confused lines of accountability, murky segregation of duties, decision-making bottlenecks and a lack of communication with the wider organisation had resulted in a breeding ground for shadow IT - and not the good kind.

Schuman had one goal: fix the IT shop.

During his short-term contract he set about laying out a path for a new organisational structure that would not only provide clear lines of accountability and oversight, but importantly stop the contempt for the IT department that was slowly creeping into the force.

Almost one year since he took that first step through WA Police’s front door, the IT executive - who boasts experience across ConocoPhillips, Rio Tinto, BHP and more recently, PriceWaterhouseCoopers - was recently formally appointed the force’s new permanent CIO.

As a result, the IT shop now has a reinvigorated structure, a new dedicated projects function and operates under the plan-build-run model.

“That was one of the pieces for me to get clear lines of accountability and get a little bit of the chaos out of the organisation,” Schuman told iTnews.

In his short time, Schuman has already made significant cuts to senior and middle management. Around 40 people have been let go so far, slimming the size of the IT shop down to 200.

The executive IT team - Schuman’s direct reports - has been levelled. Single lines of accountability for strategy and architecture, projects, infrastructure operations, application operations, and information security have been introduced. He’s also about to welcome the agency’s first chief information security officer.

“Levelling out the executive team means they actually get to make decisions now. I’m trying to push decision-making back downwards, to make heads of function accountable for their area,” Schuman said.

"Part of this restructure was to level the playing field with the executive team and force them to collaborate as a team - I don't want to be making every decision for the portfolio."

Flattening the executive team was also a response to the “bottleneck” that previously existed in the chief technology officer role - which sat above operations and served as a funnel for all decision making.

Schuman eliminated the CTO role and split its functions between the infrastructure and applications divisional leads.

The work is not yet done - Schuman will likely make more cuts once a number of the team’s current projects wrap up.

“I want a solid core team for projects, but I want to be able to expand and contract that at will. I’d rather not maintain a huge bench strength for my projects team,” he said.

Bad reputation

Schuman also discovered the IT function was suffering from a lack of communication about its work to the wider business.

“When I was doing my review I realised that no-one understood what we were doing. I went to every senior executive and no-one had any earthly idea of what we were doing and why it was of any importance,” he said.

“It’s hugely important for the rest of the organisation to actually see what it is we are doing. When they don’t see any activity, that is the breeding ground for shadow IT. It’s a vacuum that breeds contempt and [means] the rest of the organisation thinks ‘the IT portfolio never did a thing for me, they’re sitting there on their thumbs’.”

He’s therefore currently interviewing for an internal IT communications advisor. This ‘business relationship co-ordinator’ will be tasked with selling the benefits of IT’s work to the wider organisation.

“We’ve also created an organisational change manager role and a comms person directly assigned to the change manager within the projects team for some of these big core pieces of work,” Schuman said.

“We hire a consultant from outside to do that work, but that should really be a core part of what we do when we are delivering.”

Wringing more out of a partner

Most of the 40-odd roles that were let go in the first sweep came from senior and middle management, but three teams from the infrastructure division were also eliminated.

One of the teams dealt with desktop and server within WA Police’s data centre, while another handled operational security - two areas of work the force’s service provider partners should have been doing, Schuman said.

"We are freeing up our vendors, who are more than capable, to fully realise the value of our managed service agreements," Schuman said

“If we’ve contracted someone to do a job and we’re paying someone to do that job, why am I doubling up with my own staff?”

On the horizon

The restructure is just one piece of work under what Schuman is calling the three horizons of his transformation program.

Alongside the organisational and operations restructures and internal rebranding, horizon one will see the building blocks for managed network services and ERP reform laid down.

Schuman plans on outsourcing at least one - network services - if not both pieces of work to a partner to manage.

The force currently uses in-house SAP - supported by CSC - for its ERP platform, but is looking at “all options” for a replacement when its support contract runs out in 18 months.

Once the first transformation stage is complete, Schuman will turn his focus more fully towards desktop-as-a-service, for which he is “already starting to apply pressure”. The second horizon will also likely involve more restructuring off the back off some of the stage one work.

As for what’s on the horizon for the final stage of the transformation project?

“That I will keep close to my chest,” Schuman said.

The overall transformation program is running alongside the force’s CAD system replacement project. WA Police is currently working through a shortlist of potential partners ahead of a contract appointment in June.

The force this time last year approached the market for a solution provider to replace the ageing facility currently provided by Motorola, which is struggling under the increasing call volumes being dealt with by the force's various dispatch units.

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