Government CTO search - missing the human touch?


The appointment of New Zealand’s first government Chief Technology Officer is an exciting and critical next step to becoming a thriving digital nation, as noted by NZ Tech boss Graeme Muller.

It was always going to be a tricky role to fill, given the number of interested stakeholders and their expectations of the role. 

Leaving aside the complexities of the job, the ups and downs of the appointment process so far reminds us of the impact of communication – especially online – on people’s experiences and on outcomes.

Shortlisted candidate Dan Khan said he was disappointed by the lack of human contact in the recruitment process, which is counter to the idea that digitisation should improve the human experience. If our processes and systems don’t take human communication needs into account, they risk alienating the very people we are seeking to engage. Good people can be doing their best on both sides, but if someone walks away from an experience feeling like a number instead of a person, no justice has been done to either side of the interaction.

The CTO recruitment process also reminds us of the impact social channels have on reputation and real-world outcomes. In this case, Twitter has enabled New Zealand’s tech industry to widely share their thoughts on the role and on potential hiring decisions. Where these conversations would once have been held face-to-face, they are now public, and influence the way people think about the organisations and personalities involved.
Would better communication around the objectives of the CTO role have made the online conversations more constructive? Or, is this just the new normal? The answer to both questions is probably yes.

However, as demonstrated by last year’s Reputation Reality survey, just 40 per cent of leaders feel confident of managing social and digital media in the event of a reputational crisis – pointing to a capability issue that needs to be addressed.

Looking forward, getting the right person on board will no doubt be a top portfolio priority for the replacement Minister Kris Faafoi. Whoever our new CTO is, they will need to be a great communicator; connecting, activating and influencing in many directions.  We’re looking forward to welcoming them.