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CIO50 2021 #26-50: Symon McHerron, Christchurch City Council

  • Name Symon McHerron
  • Title Chief Information Officer
  • Company Christchurch City Council
  • Commenced role April 2018
  • Reporting Line General Manager - Resources
  • Member of the Executive Team Yes
  • Technology Function 183 staff, seven direct reports
  • Christchurch City Council chief information officer Symon McHerron says his team has brokered a different approach with it executive team on how the Digital Capital Portfolio can deliver greater organisational value quicker and be more responsive to the digital needs of 32 business units.

    The three year Digital Capital Portfolio of approximately $60 million is now seen as a three year fund with flexibly on where it is allocated across all financial years, rather than hardwired to a specific financial year, McHerron says.

    “We have also gained support to run an over committed portfolio, knowing that situations will arise through programme and projects that will bring you back to budget baselines, and therefore maximise budget use, and value delivery.”

    The early results of the revised approach have seen the team getting greater traction earlier, streamlining processes, keeping delivery momentum across the financial year, and being able to better respond and support unplanned initiatives, he says.

    “We have ensured that some funding is ring fenced and allocated to ‘bundles’ of initiatives that are high value and low cost, and can be delivered in agile ways, and often not as tightly scope bound. This allows us to be highly responsive to what might be small, however important enablement for our customers, while we also focus on balancing the larger more complex and multi-year programmes and projects,” he says.

    A specific innovation that has come out of these bundles include successfully using machine learning to analyse dog barking complaint audio recordings, so compliance officers don’t have to listen to several hours of audio recording. These innovative approaches have provided us with practical examples to promote greater use of the underpinning technologies in other areas of the organisation. 

    Building credibility

    McHerron says a more innovative approach for the Digital Portfolio has come about by building credibility.

    “For the start of this financial year we have now been able to better maintain delivery momentum across our Digital capital portfolio, tripling the spend from the previous financial years first two months. This will result in quicker delivery of efficiencies and cost saving gains expected from the portfolio investments, and also the value expected from initiatives happening at a faster pace for those within our organisation and most importantly for the Citizens’ we serve,” he says.

    “The Council’s Digital Strategy vision statement includes “…..strengthening the city’s resilience to future challenges” and I now believe our revised approach to the Digital capital portfolio is more resilient itself to respond to the ever changing environment we now operate in.”

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