Ron McKerlie, who was appointed Ontario’s new corporate chief information and information technology officer at the end of October, came to the Ontario public service from Rogers Communications Inc., where he was vice-president of e-business. McKerlie spoke to ITBusiness.ca recently about what drew him to the public sector and what changes he plans to make.
ITBusiness.ca: What brought you to the public sector from the private sector?
Ron McKerlie: The opportunity to make a difference in a real and meaningful way. This is a big job. There’s great size and scope to the challenge and that was attractive. There’s also the chance to work with some pretty bright, passionate, dedicated people, people who also want to make a difference.
ITB: What do you think you can bring the OPS from the experiences you had in the private sector?
RM: The ability to successfully manage change in what is often an ambiguous environment probably would be my most significant strength. I also have a strong bias for action, the ability to focus on a few things and do them well and a willingness to embrace change.
ITB: So what do you plan to do first?
RM: Lots. One of the things I want to do is focus the I&IT organization around a small set of important deliverables. I’m trying to generate a sense of urgency to deliver results and trying to begin to create a service culture, a culture that values servicing our customers well and creating an environment that instills trust, partnerships, and a willingness to accept accountability. Specifically, we have a number of Ontario initiatives around getting the basics right, such as trying to consolidate things like the desktop, servers and data centres, and also implementing some recommendations from the task force report on large-scale IT projects, so those would be the early deliverables.
ITB: What do you see as the main challenges you face in improving service delivery to citizens?
RM: We’re somewhat scattered in terms of responsibility for delivering that and we’re in the process of trying to pull the responsibility for delivering services as well as all the channels for delivery into the Ministry of Government Service. That will help us, I think, in terms of getting all the resources and channels under one roof. Beyond that, it’s about sequencing and trying to move forward in terms of delivering a high level of service to customers.
ITB: Do you see more possibilities for more multi-jurisdictional co-operation? I’m thinking of something like BizPal.
RM: I think there are mid- to long-term opportunities. I think they’ve become fairly challenging to get at and deliver, and given the different agendas and timelines of partners, it’s not a short-term priority for me.
ITB: What would you say characterizes your style of leadership?
RM: Focus. I have the ability to pick a few things and concentrate resources around them. I try to be candid and open and inclusive in terms of my leadership style, and the other thing I’m trying to do is create a sense of urgency in getting on with things.
ITB: How do you plan to foster innovation?
RM: The Ontario government is already pretty innovative in its use of IT, which has been acknowledged through the winning of awards as well as hosting governments from around the world. We’re already leaders in the way we deliver services to citizens, so I think a key challenge around innovation is to improve areas like innovation management and the use of information to continue to make better decisions for the people we serve in Ontario.
ITB: How do you see the future of IT workers in the Ontario government? Some have suggested eventually all public sector IT workers will be working for vendors due to outsourcing.
RM: Not necessarily. I think it’s certainly worth looking at. There may well be opportunities to do outsourcing, but there are and there will continue to be some great I&IT jobs in the Ontario government, and we’ll continue to look for bright people to work here, so it’s certainly not a career-ending job if you come and work for the government.