Nelson will take over from Joe Harley at the end of March, while continuing in his role as CIO for the MInistry of Justice
The government has appointed Andy Nelson as its new chief information officer (CIO), taking over from Joe Harley, who announced he would retire from the civil service in November. Nelson will take over from Harley at the end of March.
However, critics have said there are some signs the government is treating the CIO post as a figurehead, noting that Nelson is to continue his demanding position as CIO of the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) after taking over his new role.
Private sector experience
“It is fantastic to be able to assign the role of government CIO to someone who has held major CIO roles in private sector and has been involved in the ICT strategy since the very beginning,” he said in a statement. “Andy has worked closely with Joe over the past months and will continue to do so – ensuring that we continue to deliver ICT services fit for a modern civil service.”
Nelson has held his MoJ role since September 2009, following a career in the private sector. He has previously worked as a group director for strategic change and IS at Royal Sun Alliance, director of computer services at Asda and management consultant at Accenture.
He is said not have been closely involved with the government’s G-Cloud cloud computing strategy.
However, some industry observers have criticised the government for continuing to employ CIOs who have demanding jobs elsewhere. Harley fulfilled his government CIO duties while holding the same role with the Department for Work and Pensions, and Nelson will also hold a dual role.
Industry observer Tony Collins said that the “doubling-up” approach is a sign that the Cabinet Office considers the government CIO role as “more titular than strategic”.
“Nelson’s CIO job at the Ministry of Justice is challenging enough without the wider government CIO role,” he argued in a blog post.
He noted that the recruitment process reportedly did not involve external advertising and that interviews were held only last week. This “suggests the appointment did not involve a long and difficult process”, Collins wrote.
Sir Ian Magee, a senior fellow at the Institute for Government, last year argued that the government needs a CIO who can operate independent of departmental interests in order to to bring in a more agile ICT culture, according to PublicService.co.uk.
“This strategy will eventually demand a truly independent government CIO, which we currently do not have,” he said at the time.