Government hires new 'face' of UK IT

An IT veteran with over 25 years experience overseeing private and public sector projects has been appointed as the new Government Chief Information Officer (CIO).

John Suffolk, director-general of Criminal Justice IT, will replace Ian Watmore in June as the new 'face' of UK Government IT, at home and abroad.

The Cabinet Office yesterday said Mr Suffolk would lead the work of the CIO Council, in delivering the strategy to transform pubic services, enabled by technology.

Responding to Contractor UK, a spokeswoman added, "John Suffolk will start his new post in early June – he has not elaborated on the job, or what he will be focussing on or looking to achieve before then."

The spokeswoman said that the position of Head of Government IT was advertised in The Sunday Times in January. She refused to reveal the number of internal and external candidates.

The decision to promote Suffolk from CJIT chief to Government CIO was taken by an internal panel chaired by one of the Civil Service Commissioners, before it gained approval by the Prime Minister.

Three members of the CIO Council sat on the panel alongside Ian Watmore, the head of the Prime Minister's Delivery Unit and outgoing Government CIO.

"I am very pleased to welcome John into this role. After a successful career in the financial services sector, he has been an influential member of the CIO Council from its inception, through his leadership role on Criminal Justice IT," Mr Watmore said.

"This combination of public and private sector experience makes him ideally equipped to lead the implementation of the Transformational Government strategy to enable the delivery of better, more efficient, public services."

Analysts agree that Suffolk's experience in the Finance sector and his stint at CJIT since 2004 makes him "well versed in the specific challenges of large-scale public sector IT projects."

"The fact that he was brought into his current post in order to ensure that the wavering £2bn CJIT programme stayed on track and delivered real benefits fits well with the challenges ahead of him in his new post," said Dr Eric Woods, research director at Ovum.

"The task ahead is to ensure that the ambitious plans outlined in the government's IT strategy are implemented successfully…. At the same time, he and his colleagues have to address the woeful image of the public sector's performance on large-scale IT projects."

Criminal Justice IT officials pointed out that Suffolk has worked in the engineering and financial service industries and has "extensive experience delivering IT-enabled change."

His "many and varied roles at director-level," compliment his directorship of IT twice in different organisations, as well as Customer Services Director, Operations Director and Managing Director of Britannia.

Ovum said making an existing CIO council member Head of Government IT "offers an important element of continuity," while allowing the individual to make his own mark on the role following on from Ian Watmore.

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