Canadian Information Processing Society (CIPS)



Maarten Hillenaar, Internationally Renowned ICT Executive, past CIO Central Dutch Government; Director, Central Government IT Policy Department Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations

This week, Stephen Ibaraki has an exclusive interview with Maarten Hillenaar.

Maarten HillenaarMartinus (Maarten) Wilhelmus Ignatius Hillenaar, former CIO Central Dutch Government; Director, Central Government IT Policy Department Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations

From 2009 until 2014 M.W.I. (Maarten) Hillenaar was CIO of the Central Government at the Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations. In this position he directed the way in which ICT is used, developed a cloud strategy, implemented the common IT-workspace and improved and standardized the rules for information security. Furthermore, he developed a governance model together with the CIOs of the 11 Dutch ministries which made it possible to govern the ICT of Central Government based on one, single strategy.

Within the Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations, the ICT Policy Department is responsible for standard policy relating to information security and information affairs for the Central Government.

Since this spring he is the principal consultant at PBLQ, the ICT consultancy company for administration in the public sector.

He was nominated to be European CIO of the Year 2014.

Professional Experience

From 2004 until 2009 he worked as a consultant at Het Expertise Centrum (HEC), an ICT consultancy company for administration in the public sector. From 1995 to 2004, he was managing director at various units of PinkRoccade, by then a leading ICT-company in The Netherlands. Prior to this, he worked at the Association of Netherlands Municipalities (VNG) and was a member of an advisory group advising the Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations on ICT problems.

To listen to the interview, click on this MP3 file link

The latest blog on the interview can be found in the IT Manager's Blog where you can provide your comments in an interactive dialogue.


Interview Time Index (MM:SS) and Topic

:00:46: Maarten, can you profile your work at PBLQ and your top predictions for 2015 and beyond?
"....The PBLQ is a Dutch consultancy office established by the Dutch government about 25 years ago but it has gone private I think about 15 years ago. It works closely with the government on strategic ICT matters. You can say that if there's been something really important going on with the Dutch government, PBLQ can be involved in one way or another....My prediction for 2015: I think that a very important change that I'm experiencing is we don't have this gap between IT, ICT and business anymore...."

:02:34: How can executives act on the trends and predictions that are happening in the future?
"....What I see is that there are different angles to that. I think that those vendors that don't invest in what's really going on within government are going to have a very hard time. On the other hand, what we see is that top civil servants need to get their hands on the important ICT matters...."

:03:53: You recently spoke at the IFIP World CIO Forum in November 2014 where more than 1000 executives participated from over 50 countries. Which sessions did you find most valuable and what are the lessons from those sessions? What surprised you? What did the host country presenters say that you found noteworthy?
"....What I experienced was that it was a very intense conference, literally. There were not a lot of pauses, not a lot of time to stretch your legs. I'm not trying to be critical but it shows that there was so much to tell. There were so many stories but if you looked at them very closely you really saw it was all the same story that everybody was talking about: What's going on? What are the big changes? What are we witnessing?.....At the same time, I experienced what everybody was talking about - we were in a room full of witnesses looking at the world evolving around us; the technical world, the ICT world and we draw our own conclusions and this conclusion looks a lot alike....So we see perfect world possibilities move into our communities, into our lives in a very intensive way, but nobody talked about what does this mean. It was all about possibilities, technical challenges but not challenges in terms of what's the effect on our society? What's it going to mean and more importantly, what are we going to do with it?...."

:07:06: What did you find were the most memorable moments from that week at the World CIO Forum?
"....What I found very impressive was the setting. The way we interacted with each other, that really made a big impression on me because it showed to me although the world is getting very small, there are completely different worlds trying to mingle, trying to get together and the intent of really trying to get together was what really impressed me on those two days....There are huge opportunities getting the right people together and trying to make a difference. Not a difference about getting a grip on all the opportunities, but getting a grip on how these opportunities affect society and affect working together, affect building a world that we want to live in and my children want to live in...."

:09:18: You had this very amazing speech that you gave with some really good tips that you provided to the audience. Can you share some things from your speech?
"....I was the first CIO appointed in the Central Government so I could start on a zero base because nothing had been done. Of course there was a lot of IT, but nothing had been done, for example in collaboration between the different departments so this was my starting point. I tried to tear down the walls between the different stovepipes or silos and that was something that people were really skeptical about. Although lots of things could have been done much better I think we achieved a level of collaboration that really surprised everybody, and the main thing in that operation was sharing my responsibility....We had a very productive period of time and we showed the world that it's possible to reach a high level of collaboration between different departments...."

:13:41: We can see the value in all the things that you've done as a CIO and how you were able to remove the silos within the government to get everybody working on the same page. A lot of this was summarized in your really great presentation deck. Are you going to make that deck available?
"....Yes of course I'd love to but I think I have to give you a little bit of background on the deck. What I tried to show more or less is a metaphor of what not working together means and what working together means. I used the football metaphor because it's something that's always been very important for me. I started my career as a not very talented football player, but football was very important to my modus operandi and the way I tried to work. I realized in a football team you can't do it alone, you need the rest (of the team)....."

:15:49: Can you describe your most significant and influential achievements and the practical outcomes seen today and forecasted into the future?
"....Getting the system to work was very important, the collaboration, shared responsibility, shifting our goals, but if you go one step further what we actually did was that we worked on a very robust information infrastructure...."

:18:34: I can see why you were nominated for the European CIO of the Year. Can you share some leadership lessons that can be used by executives?
"....I was a football player and I was the captain of the team - the achievements were made by the team. Let's be honest, what the jury wrote down in their report and what I was nominated for was that I managed to get this team to be very effective. To make a team work, you have to share responsibilities and make sure everybody gets the credit for success. A very important thing is to just to be there...."

:21:47: Do you feel computing should be a recognized profession on par with accounting, medicine and law with demonstrated professional development, adherence to a code of ethics, personal responsibility, public accountability, quality assurance and recognized credentials? [See and the Global Industry Council,]
"....I think it's key to every development that we are going to face so making the IT profession something that really counts is a very important thing to do. So I really second that idea...."

:22:50: From your extensive speaking, travels, and work, please share some stories (perhaps something amusing, surprising, unexpected, amazing).
"....I was a member of the European Steering Committee on cloud computing which was established by the European Commission and was shared by the President of Estonia. He invited us to do one of the meetings in Tallinn, the capital of Estonia. We were invited to (I think one of the winter palace of one of the former czars), and this winter palace had a big refrigerator from a couple of hundred years ago. Of course we didn't have the technology we have today so the fridge was a big cellar. In the winter it was filled with ice and meat and by the end of the summer the ice would have been gone and the meat would have been eaten. This big ice cellar was converted into a meeting room which was under the ground so there were no lights, no windows, but still a very fascinating environment to have a meeting for a full day....It was the most beautiful day in Estonia for years so when we came out of the cellar during lunchtime we faced a very sunny day with all kinds of nice trees, flowers and stuff like that, but we had to go back to the ice cellar to finish the meeting for the day...."

:26:53: You choose the topic area. What do you see as the top three challenges facing us today and how do you propose they be solved?
"....Privacy is one of the big challenges of this era....Another one is dealing with change....Another thing is media rules the public debate. We hardly take time to bring in the nuances, we build opinions very fast and we make big decisions based on very fast opinions...."

:30:29: If you were conducting this interview, what questions would you ask, and then what would be your answers?
"....You did an opening statement in a formal discussion at the conference you just mentioned, summarizing all the data that symbolized the enormous growth we are going through. My question to you is: how do you value all those figures and what in your opinion is the big movement behind them?....I have a second question for you. I like to see myself as a very positive person and I always look for solutions and opportunities, but at the same time I find myself being a bit worried about the coming years. I'm not skeptical, but I am worried. My question to you: is it the wise thing to be a bit careful? (To be careful in terms of the changes and anticipating risk and taking advantage of some of the innovations out there)....My last question for you has to do with the positive side of me…How viable is it to bring together a group of people in the world to share all these issues, to work on views on those issues and see how we can formulate the next steps without entering the field of politics? Is that something that would work and is it something we could work on?...."

:41:58: Maarten, with your demanding schedule, we are indeed fortunate to have you come in to do this interview. Thank you for sharing your substantial wisdom with our audience.