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.

Page Break


The world was hit by the WannaCry virus. The global ransomware attack made its way to Australia, claiming 12 victims across the country - and the numbers kept steadily rising.

Budget fever also consumed the news cycle. The government laid out its investment plan for a whole-of-government Cyber Security Advisory Office (CSAO). The CSAO sits within the Digital Transformation Agency, funded by $10.7 million over four years from 2017-18.

Under measures announced in the budget, companies hiring workers from overseas on the new temporary skills shortage visa and certain permanent skilled visas will be slugged with a levy that will go into the government’s new ‘Skilling Australians Fund.’ The new skilled migration levy could see some organisations forced to pay an annual charge of up to $5000 for some workers.

In other big news this month, the NSW government unveiled a new digital strategy requiring agencies to report their performance against the reform program every six months to government chief information and digital officer, Damon Rees.

In announcing the strategy. NSW minister for finance, services and property, Victor Dominello, said the new reporting requirement ensured that the government was connected, customer-focused and outcomes-driven.

On the people front, William Hill’s IT boss Rob James quit his post and joined Qantas as the airline’s new chief technology officer.

Intel’s Australia and New Zealand managing director Kate Burleigh quit as the top dog, after working at the chip maker for 20 years. Burleigh began her career at Intel in 1996. She became marketing director in late 2005 and was the local boss since 2012.

Meanwhile, Boral appointed Kathleen Mackay to the new role of head of digital delivery following a reshuffle of its IT group led by CIO, William Payne. Mackay was formerly GM, IT project delivery and had a ‘small stint’ as CIO before Payne joined in January. Payne has replaced former CIO David Oxnam, who is due to leave the organisation next month.

Capgemini ANZ appointed former Origin Energy CIO Olaf Pietschner to the new role of chief operating officer.Prior to Origin, Pietschner was group director of technology at News Corp and has previously worked for Capgemini in Europe.


Big news on the security front. The Australian Defence Force launched a new ‘Information Warfare Division’ responsible for ‘electronic warfare.’

The unit will be responsible for “military cyber operations, military intelligence, joint electronic warfare, information operations and space operations,” according to the minister assisting the prime minister for cyber security, Dan Tehan.

Cybersecurity continued to capture the news headlines with the Federal Government saying it planed to push “thwarting the encryption of terrorist messaging” at a meeting of the Five Eyes nations in Canada.

Attorney-General George Brandis and Minister for Immigration and Border Protection Peter Dutton said the need for cooperation from service providers regarding encryption would be raised as a “priority issue” in the security talks between Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States.

In other government news, the Northern Territory government selected InterSystems to replace four obsolete clinical IT systems with a single platform across NT’s entire public health system.

Under the $259 million, five-year Core Clinical Renewal Program (CCSRP), InterSystems, through its local integrated partner Dialog Information Technology, had been asked to create a unified healthcare information system through the territory.

On the people front, ANZ Group appointed former eBay Europe’s chief operating officer finance to serve under Maile Carnegie in a newly created role. Jennifer Scott began work at the bank as general manager digital transformation and performance and reported to Carnegie, group executive digital banking.

Westpac, meanwhile, suffered a series of systems failure, including a major outage to its online and mobile banking services, as well as its EFTPOS, ATMs and card transactions.

And at long last the ‘three zone’ Google Cloud Platform region in finally landed in Sydney, giving Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure some beefy competition.

Google had been working hard to convince enterprises to move their core systems to its cloud platform. In March, the Silicon Valley giant wheeled out the likes of international bank HSBC, Colgate Palmolive, eBay, Home Depot, and Disney to provide snapshots of their implementations.


This month, the fight between TechnologyOne and Brisbane City Council continued to heat up. TechnologyOne has received a claim for damages in excess of $50 million from Brisbane City Council (BCC). The software vendor said it strongly disputed and would vigorously defend what it referred to as an ‘ambit claim’.

The claim followed an announcement by BCC that it would be terminating its 2015 contract for TechnologyOne to replace 13 of the council’s core IT systems. TechnologyOne had said it be making a counterclaim for an amount in excess of $50 million for wrongful termination.

Over at the CSIRO, the agency began using its new $4m Dell EMC supercomputer, which aims to help to bring vision to the blind through the use of multi-layered neural networks. The system expands the CSIRO’s deep learning capability, and will open up new areas of research the organisation said. The machine is expected to clock speeds in excess of one petaflop.

In telco news, NBN Co announced the rollout of the national broadband network had officially passed the halfway point with one in two Australians now able connect to the service. The company said more than 5.7 million homes and businesses can now order a service from their retailer, claiming it is adding an average of 100,000 new properties each week.

In banking news, ANZ added Samsung Pay to its offering, leading the Big Four banks in its coverage of the major contactless mobile payments options.

Meanwhile, blockchain was back in the news as an association which aims to grow and support the local blockchain community was launched in Australia. The Blockchain Association of Australia – registered as a not for profit incorporated association last month – met for the first time at RMIT in Melbourne.

Page Break


More digital transformation was in the works. Queensland-based motoring club and mutual organisation RACQ overhauled its digital strategy just eight months after completing its $3.9 billion merger with QT Mutual Bank.

On the AI front, an international group of artificial intelligence and robotics experts signed an open letter to the United Nations to halt the use of autonomous weapons they say threaten a ‘third revolution in warfare’.

Elon Musk founder of Tesla, SpaceX and OpenAI and Mustafa Suleyman, founder and Head of Applied AI at Google’s DeepMind were among 116 signatories of the letter, which was issued at the International Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence (IJCAI 2017) which took place in Melbourne.

In government news, Australia’s biggest hackathon event – GovHack – which took place in August resulted in the submission of 379 projects which included a Facebook bingo game that helps reduce littering to a chatbot that delivers live parliamentary proceedings and allows users to react to vote results.

Meanwhile, the CSIRO boosted its use of public cloud services to support the computing needs of its researchers at 55 sites Australia-wide and its facilities overseas. Under its Cloud Connect program, the CSIRO was initially putting in place ‘AARNET-speed connectivity’ between its locations and Amazon Web Services’ data centres.

Australia Post launched its digital identity service, enabling consumers to verify who they are to companies and government online. The Digital iDTM technology was introduced to Australia’s largest credit union, CUA; foreign exchange company Travelex; Queensland Police Service and job outsourcing marketplace Airtasker.

Meanwhile, Origin Energy’s O Hub – a colocation space where Origin staff work alongside tech start-ups – announced its first project. The home energy solution, the result of a collaboration with California-based tech start-up Bidgely, trialled with 5,000 customers in Victoria.

In people news, a major reorganisation of Qantas Group’s executive team saw the CEO of Jetstar Group lead innovation and digital at Qantas. Jayne Hrdlicka moved from the CEO role at subsidiary Jetstar to become CEO of Qantas Loyalty and Digital Ventures – which now includes responsibility for innovation.

The CSIRO appointed Jayne Leighton as chief information security officer. Leighton is responsible for leading a team of specialists to deliver CSIRO’s cyber operations, policy, training, incident response, risk assessment, contract review, incident prevention, detection and forensics capabilities.

In education news, Swinburne University of Technology paid $4 million for a supercomputer to support its groundbreaking research into astrophysics and gravitational waves.

In financial news, Commonwealth Bank of Australia blamed a software ‘coding error’ for the ‘vast majority’ of the anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism (AML/CT) financing law breaches it was accused of by AUSTRAC. 

In healthcare, after years of preparation, the new Royal Adelaide Hospital finally opened its doors, and promised to be a genuine ‘high tech hospital of the future.’


In people news, tech executive Veronica Theriault was arrested, charged and sacked from her job as CIO at South Australia’s Department of Premier and Cabinet for alleged dishonesty. According to a report in the Adelaide Advertiser, Theriault was just seven weeks into the job before being dumped by the agency following claims she allegedly used multiple identities, faked a CV and lied to get a job.

Meanwhile, David Black was crowned the new CIO of the Queensland Building and Construction Commission (QBCC), while the National Gallery of Australia (NGA) appointed Trish Leahey to be its inaugural chief information officer. GE Australia and New Zealand’s president and CEO, Geoff Culbert, has quit his post and joined Sydney Airport as its chief executive in January.

In tech news, more trouble for Dick Smith, which closed stores back in 2016. The electronics retailer was pushed into receivership in January 2016, owing its lenders more than $150 million. Every one of Dick's 393 stores closed May  2016.

One of two class actions were also launched against Dick Smith Holdings was set to be endowed with new allegations as fresh evidence came to light. Investor Claim Partner (ICP) which, in partnership with Johnson Winter & Slattery, proposed a class action on behalf of Dick Smith shareholders.

On the research front, we learned cyber attacks cost companies an average of US$11.7 million this year, a 23 per cent increase from 2016. The surge follows the recent WannaCry and Petya ransomware attacks that cost global organisations hundreds of millions of dollars, the Cost of Cyber Crime study by Accenture on and Ponemon Institute said.

In government news, the government announced it would roll out a Digital Economy Strategy early next year “to seize the benefits of digital transformation and secure Australian jobs into the future”. The strategy will cover digital infrastructure, digital business capability, and building digital skills and inclusion.

In banking news, National Australia Bank piloted a ‘digital virtual banker’ for its business customers that answers more than 200 questions previously handled by call centre staff.


This month in people news CIO Australia reported the Australian Securities Exchange’s long-standing GM, technology, Mathew Doughty left the organisation, while former GP Synergy tech chief David Anson became the new CIO at business supplies dealer, Office Brands.

In banking news, Commonwealth Bank, Westpac, and National Australia Bank all announced they are launching a new payments app. The app – named Beem – enables instant payments for all Australians regardless of who they bank with.

Meanwhile, IBM announced a blockchain banking network to help financial institutions process cross-border payments more quickly and cheaply.

Based on the IBM Blockchain Platform on Hyperledger Fabric, the network is designed to reduce the settlement time and lower the cost of completing global payments for businesses and consumers.

On the security front, CIO Australia reported how a hacker gained access to a national security contractor’s system for an “extended period of time” and stole a “significant” amount of data last year. The Australian Cyber Security Centre (ACSC) first became aware of the breach in November 2016.

In people news, the Victorian Government appointed its first whole-of-government chief information security officer. The appointment of John O’Driscoll, formerly senior manager of information and technology risk at ANZ bank, was announced by Special Minister of State Gavin Jennings.

In government news, state and territory leaders agreed with federal government plans to establish a national facial biometric matching capability, which will bring together passport, visa, citizenship and driver licence images into a single database.

At a special meeting of the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) on counter-terrorism, government heads agreed to the "21st Century tool", which has been slammed by privacy groups.

In tech news, machine learning continued to capture headlines - and this time for the navy. CIO Australia reported an analytics application developed by CSIRO’s Data61 will be used to predict engine failure and reduce fuel consumption on Royal Australian Navy vessels.

Page Break


Great news for Australian CIOs as Gartner revealed in its 19th annual CIO survey that CIOs working in Asia Pacific are steaming ahead of their global peers in the adoption of the Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI) and conversational interfaces.

Forty three per cent of CIOs from the region had deployed or were planning to roll out IoT technologies compared with 37 per cent globally. Some 37 per cent were deploying some form of AI technology, compared to 25 per cent globally.

In tech news, Amazon Web Services announced it is bringing machine learning to the enterprise and start-up masses, releasing a fully managed end-to-end machine learning service called Sagemaker and a video camera that runs deep learning models dubbed DeepLens.

In government news, the South Australian government has backed driverless vehicle trials. Aurrigo, the Australian subsidiary of UK driverless shuttle supplier RDM Group, began testing its cargo-carrying autonomous vehicles at the Tonsley Innovation District, after receiving $1 million from the government’s Future Mobility Lab fund.

In people news, CIO Australia revealed that Mark Gay quit as chief information officer at ME. Gay, who ranked number 1 in CIO Australia’s CIO50 list in 2016, led around 200 tech staff and steered the online bank though a complete overhaul and redesign of its technology architecture from the ground up. The five-year, $90 million project was completed last year.

In global news, Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) chief executive officer, Meg Whitman, announced she planned to step down early next year, with the company’s president, Antonio Neri, set to take up the reins.
The leadership shuffle, effective from 1 February 2018, also sees Neri join the HPE board of directors, where Whitman will remain after stepping down as CEO.


On the people front, the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) has appointed Joe Locandro as its inaugural chief digital and technology officer.

Brennan IT chief information officer Simon Wheeler has joined marketing operations platform Simple as chief technology officer, while GM Holden's CIO and head of information technology, Peter Lane, has left his post at the iconic brand.

In more people news, the Australian Research Council (ARC) has named its new chief information officer as Peter Conn, while the CIO of Mexican-themed franchise Mad Mex Fresh Mexican Grill, John Boyd, is departing the company as he looks for a “change in direction.”

Additionally, GetSwift’s global chief information officer Jamila Gordon has moved on after less than 12 months in the role, while Nagib Kassis has left Allianz after 15 years at the insurance organisation to undertake his first CIO role at ASX-listed FlexiGroup Limited.

In drone news, Brisbane City Council has designated areas in 10 parks as ‘drone zones’ so pilots can fly their recreational unmanned aerial vehicles within regulations.

And the public spat between TechnologyOne and Brisbane City Council may be finally coming to an end as the two organisations reportedly resolved their long-running feud with a secretive settlement.

The dispute traces back to a June 2015 BCC contract won by TechOne to deliver a local government systems (LGS) project.

Meanwhile, big news on the tech front came with the official opening of Amazon into Australia.

With Amazon officially opening up shop in Australia, local retailers are ‘bracing for impact’ and grappling with the ensuing business implications in what’s considered an already tough retail environment.

The online retail giant unveiled to Australian consumers this month, opening the door for consumers to shop for millions of products across 20 categories including books, music, clothing and accessories, consumer electronics, kitchen and baby.