Denham Sadler
April 10, 2019

NEC Australia loses half its leadership

Govt contracts

NEC Australia loses half its leadership

Mike Barber: His departure as CEO marks half the NEC Australia leadership gone in 18 months.

The departure of NEC Australia general manager Mike Barber means half of the tech company’s leadership team has left in the last year and a half, in the wake of a series of bungled government projects.

NEC Australia, which holds a large amount of government work around the country, has signalled a “change in leadership approach”, with a series of senior executives having left the company recently.

Three of NEC Australia’s executive team listed on its website as of July 2018 have now left the company. This page has now been taken offline.

It follows a series of high-profile and trouble-plagued government accounts, including the doomed biometrics project with the ACIC and a $20 million education IT platform that was canned in 2018.

NEC Australia confirmed in a statement this week that Mr Barber had been let go from the company after three years in the top job.

Mr Barber joined NEC in 2011 as general manager for services, and took over the top job at the start of 2018.

NEC Asia-Pacific CEO Tetsuro Akagi sent company staff an email announcing Mr Barber’s departure last week.

“Mike has been a valued member and leader of the NEC Australia executive management team, and NEC APAC region over the years. Mike has led and transformed NEC Australia to be one of the largest high technology companies in Australia,” Mr Akagi said in the email, seen by InnovationAus.com.

“Under Mike’s leadership, NEC Australia have won several major deals with the NSW government and other Australian government departments. He has also spearheaded several projects to drive synergy, collaboration, process innovations and improvements in NEC Australia.”

In a statement released this week, NEC Australia said there will be a “change in leadership approach” to more closely align NEC Australia with the company’s global headquarters in Japan, and to help with current efforts to “become more attractive” for its global customer base.

“A new approach being adopted by NEC’s operations from this month aims at it becoming an even more agile, productive and attractive company for its growing customer base globally,” the statement said.

While the leadership page has been taken offline, a cached version shows an executive team of six people as of July last year. Half of this team has now left the company in the last year.

This includes NEC Solutions Group head Andy Hurt, who joined communications vendor Poly in November last year, and national sales manager Bob Lanigan.

Director of people and culture Sue Roberts also left the company in May 2018.

An NEC Australia spokesperson declined to comment on why these individuals had left the company.

“We can’t comment on why these people chose to leave NEC. In reference to these three individuals, each had very lengthy tenures with NEC,” the spokesperson told InnovationAus.com.

NEC Australia chief financial officer Tadashia Takahama will be serving as interim managing director while the company recruits a permanent replacement.

InnovationAus.com understands NEC Australia has lost a number of lucrative government accounts and is believed to be underperforming on some projects.

The NEC Australia spokesperson said the company is “well regarded by government customers” but declined to comment on specific government accounts.

Last year NEC Australia staff were walked from government buildings in Canberra by security after its biometrics project with the Australian Crime Intelligence Commission was suspended. The project, which was over-budget and behind schedule, was eventually scrapped after $26 million was lost.

NEC Australia said it was “extremely disappointed” at the ACIC’s decision to can the project, and claimed its solution was “ready to be handed over to the ACIC for System Acceptance Testing when the project was placed on hold by the ACIC”.

The project was meant to replace the ACIC’s existing National Automated Fingerprint Identification System, providing facial recognition technology to law enforcement agencies. But an audit report said the ACIC’s management of the project was “deficient in almost every significant respect”, and it fell behind schedule and over budget quickly.

The audit office found that the ACIC and NEC Australia overlooked “two critical requirements” of the new offering and that none of the listed milestones were met.

After the scathing audit report, the company said it has a “proud history and reputation as a leader in biometrics technology globally and every day we strive to be cutting edge in this field” and that the company has successfully delivered similar projects around the world.

NEC Australia was also behind the failed $20 million national apprenticeship management IT system driven by the Department of Education. The project was scrapped in late 2018 after testing revealed “significant capability gaps”.

NEC Australia was picked to deliver the platform in 2015, and soon advised that it would take “significantly longer” than had been first estimated. The department later found systemic project weaknesses, and ultimately dropped the project “rather than continue to invest in a system which ultimately may not have met the current business needs or future requirements of Australia’s apprenticeship and traineeship system”.

NEC Australia also won a huge $134 million tender for NSW Transport’s Making IT Work For You project, involving the company taking over the department’s end-user computing functions and delivering a new “consolidated collaboration platform to the transport cluster of agencies”.

A recent review of the wider Transport for NSW project revealed “critical problems” and poor vendor performance, with a $80 million cost blow-up.

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