2017: The year that was

2017: The year that was

A month-by-month look back at who and what made news in 2017

No doubt, 2017 was a year of transformation and continual change in the CIO sector. From job changes and perpetual maneuvering to ongoing stories of innovation and digital transformation, technology chiefs are influencing rapid change across their organisations.

Inevitably, according to Gartner, the job of CIO will extend beyond the traditional delivery roles to other areas of the business, such as innovation management and talent development.

"The CIO's role must grow and develop as digital business spreads, and disruptive technologies, including intelligent machines and advanced analytics, reach the masses," said Andy Rowsell-Jones, vice-president and distinguished analyst at Gartner.

In this month-by-month review, we take a look at some of the highlights of this year: at the CIOs making headlines themselves, and some of the notable stories of 2017. 


The year kicked off with a bevy of CIO departures and promotions. For starters, former Digital Transformation Office chief Paul Shetler made headlines when he revealed he left his government post due to a "philosophical clash" with minister Angus Taylor.

Meanwhile, GPT Group CIO Sharmila Tsourdalakis quit and joined Suncorp Group as its executive general manager, strategy and planning, while financial services company IOOF appointed Sharam Hekmat as its new chief information officer. 

Steven Fox left his position as CIO at Caltex Australia after five and half years in the role, while Pacific National appointed Paul Williams as its new chief information officer following the departure of Kelvin McGrath, and Bakers Delight’s long-standing CIO, Joanne Stubbs, was made redundant.

On the research front, we learned many CIOs have not embraced the shift to digital business with the traditional tech-focused role now under threat from chief data officers (CDOs) or CTOs with digital and customer experience expertise.

Not surprisingly, blockchain continued to make headlines. The Commonwealth Bank (CBA) and Queensland Treasury Corporation created what they claimed was the first government bond using the blockchain.

Additionally, drone fever continued to inspire with news that a drone hacking tool launched in Australia. Technology that allowed drones to be commandeered mid-flight went on sale across the country. 

By the end of the month, big legalese news hit the airwaves, as TechnologyOne reportedly prepared for litigation in the Brisbane City Council dispute, which involved the implementation of the council’s local government platform. The software firm slammed the council for “frustrating” its ability to complete the project and for going public with its concerns.

Finally, artificial intelligence news was building. It was reported that Australian businesses are ahead of their global counterparts in the deployment of artificial intelligence and are spending big on the technology, according to an Infosys report. 

In government news, the WA government finalised contracts with Atos, Datacom and NEC to deliver its $3 billion, five-year GovNext-ICT technology overhaul. The government was looking to cut spending on ICT infrastructure by up to 25 per cent to gain savings of up to $80 million annually.


More people news captured headlines this month. After five years at the helm, Patrick Hadley, CIO of the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), retired, while Queensland’s Metro South Hospital and Health Service CEO, Dr Richard Ashby, was named the new CEO and CIO of eHealth Queensland.

Meanwhile, security appointments were hot. ANZ Bank snared former Australian government cyber security strategy lead, Lynwen Connick, as its new chief information security officer, while Jetstar appointed Yvette Lejins as its new head of cyber security. Meanwhile, Qantas appointed Darren Argyle as its new chief information security officer, while Qantas' chief technology officer, Chris Taylor quit.

In finance circles, National Australia Bank appointed Barclaycard Global COO Patrick Wright to chief technology and operations officer, while ANZ crowned Emma Gray as its first chief data officer tasked with overseeing the bank’s data strategy, including how data is defined, gathered managed and protected.

PricewaterhouseCoopers appointed its first chief digital officer, Vishy Narayanan, who joined the professional services giant from hearing aid-makers Cochlear where he was global head of digital technology.

Australia Post CEO, Ahmed Fahour, suddenly quit his position after seven years in the top job amidst intense criticism over his $5.6 million salary, even from Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

In other postal news, Australia Post established a marketplace within Southeast Asia following a new agreement with e-commerce network Lazada, which is majority-owned by Alibaba.

Under the deal, Australia Post extended its online storefronts beyond China to Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia, which the organisation said created a platform for Australian businesses to sell products across the region.

In government circles, Commonwealth Treasury tapped Eamonn Rooney as its new CIO, a former gateway review team leader for the Department of Finance who provided recommendations to agency heads and Deputy Secretaries regarding complex and high risk ICT initiatives.


Highlights this month include more staff movements and government and financial news.

For starters, a group of Australian banks lost a fight to collectively negotiate with Apple and boycott the iPhone maker's payments platform, Apple Pay.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) denied authorisation to the Commonwealth Bank, Westpac, NAB and Bendigo and Adelaide Bank to collectively bargain with the iPhone maker and boycott Apple Pay.

Meanwhile, startup advocacy group, StartupAUS, criticised the government’s last minute removal of the ‘safe harbour’ provision from legislation that aimed to revise copyright laws to allow for greater access to content and material for Australians.

The group described the ‘watered-down’ Copyright Amendment (Disability Access and Other Measures) bill as a ‘blow to Australian entrepreneurs.’

On the people front, the NSW Electoral Commission appointed a new director of business systems as part of a corporate restructure which led to the resignation of its high-profile former CIO Ian Brightwell last year, while former Woodside tech transformation chief Mike Schuman took a new role at Townsville City Council.

Meanwhile, Dr Maria Milosavljevic was named the new chief information security officer at the NSW government. Dr Milosavljevic moved across after a two-year stint as chief innovation officer and CISO at AUSTRAC.

On the innovation front, Domino’s released a voice assistant that let customers order pizza by chatting to a bot, an Australian first in the quick serve restaurant industry, the company said at the time. The assistant – DRU Assist – has a natural language voice engine powered by Nuance and works on Domino’s Android and iOS apps. Users can text their conversation if preferred in-app and on the company website.

In more business news, Australia Post and Blackmores joined an initiative run by e-commerce giant Alibaba to combat the rise of counterfeit food being sold across China.

The project took advantage of blockchain technology – a decentralised and highly available database – which could be used to obtain crucial details from suppliers about how and where their food was grown and map its journey across the supply chain.


This month saw lots of ink written about Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull’s decision to abolish the 457 visa programme, which will be replaced by the new Temporary Skill Shortage (TSS) visa which has two-year and four-year streams.

As reported at the time, Minister for Immigration and Border Protection Peter Dutton suggested the whole thing was little more than a 457 ‘brand’ redesign. Unions agreed and Labor called the changes "cosmetic", "not real" and said they would make "no real difference".

The IT Professionals Association (ITPA), meanwhile, claimed local tech firms were abusing the 457 visa system by hiring international staff for entry level IT support positions rather than local graduates.

Meanwhile, the federal police came into the spotlight as an AFP investigator obtained a journalist’s call records without a warrant. AFP commissioner, Andrew Colvin, said the data breach had taken place as part of an investigation into a leak of confidential police material. The metadata breach was referred to the Commonwealth Ombudsman on April 26.

Meanwhile, on the people front, Former ASX tech boss Tim Thurman, was headhunted by global payments provider, Paysafe Group to fill a newly-created chief digital officer role, while Coles reopened the CIO position and appointed former IAG digital chief Claire Rawlins to the role. Former National Australia Bank personal banking chief Gavin Slater was also announced as the CEO of the Digital Transformation Agency.

On the research front, we learned most Australian CIOs said they planned to invest more money in boosting their big data analytics capabilities in 2017 as demand for high volume processing and real-time intelligence grows strongly, according to analysis from Telsyte.

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