CIO50 2022 #26-50 Steve Hodgkinson, Victoria Police
Public sector tech doyen, Steve Hodgkinson has now appeared in the CIO50 for six years in a row, making him our most decorated alumnus.
Besting last year’s second place was always going to be a big ask for the then chief information officer with Victoria's Health and Human Services departments and the recently rebranded the Department of Families, Fairness and Housing (DFFH), especially given the scale of the next challenge he embarked upon.
After calling time on seven years with these departments, in April this year Hodgkinson became chief digital officer with Victoria Police, assuming leadership of its Digital Services and Security Services Department (DSSD) while formally becoming a member of the Police Command.
He tells CIO Australia that one of the prime motivations for moving to law enforcement was to replicate the ‘platform+agile’ methodologies that proved so successful on his watch with health and human services “in the context of one of Victoria’s biggest and most operationally complex IT challenges”.
“Victoria Police has long been regarded as ‘the ultimate IT challenge’ in the Victorian public sector because of its large scale, the complexity, digital-intensity and mission-criticality of its operations and the difficulties of driving change in operational policing,” Hodgkinson says.
“The agency has a track record of ‘big bang’ IT projects, large outsourced IT arrangements and a slow, risk averse approach to innovation.”
Victoria Police is the largest police force in Australia with 22,500 staff across 500 locations, and accounting for an annual budget of $4 billion.
The DSSP’s technology arsenal is imposing, including 20,000 workstations/laptops, 11,000 iPads, 8,000 iPhones, 13,000 radios, 10,000 body worn cameras, 300 systems (large and small), while handling over 350,000 service requests every year, and a level of cyber and information security demands Hodgkinson describes as “intense”.
“There is a huge pent-up demand for digital innovation, with over 400 known requests for new and enhanced systems and digital innovations,” Hodgkinson adds.
Still getting his feet under a very large desk, the government tech veteran views his overarching challenge as devising a “cunning plan” for advancing digital innovation at Victoria Police, taking account of a complex matrix of “aspirations, frustrations, enablers and constraints”.
Among the first steps was creating the draft Strategy for Digitally Transforming Victoria Police, which rests on the three core pillars of: innovations in digital technology management; innovations in digital systems for policing; and the actual strategy for transformation.
Reinforcing what CIO Australia has already learned from fellow CIO50 alumnus, former chief information officer at NSW Police, Gordon Dunsford, Hodgkinson notes that gaining influence within law enforcement – perhaps more than most other domains - is heavily dependent on proving results.
“My challenge in my new role is finding ways to get started down this path by leveraging the reputational credibility of my ‘department of health story’ until I can build confidence in my own ability and that of my team to make stuff happen better and faster in Victoria Police,” he explains.
Describing himself as a “new broom”, Hodgkinson adds that thus far he’s sought to be “humble, to seek to understand and to find ways to make myself useful by being alert to opportunities to make an initial positive impact”.
As well as being an active member of Police Command, Hodgkinson has also been on the front line – somewhere Dunsford could often be found – learning about the ‘realities’ of policing including as a “ride-along-executive” in an afternoon shift out of Dandenong Station.
“[It] was an eye-opening experience, full-on from one incident to another from 3PM to 11PM, including two visits to the hospital ED (emergency department).”