RINIS director Henk Grevelman: ‘Connect, join forces and have an impact’

Recent months have seen Henk Grevelman getting up to speed as RINIS’s new director. In amongst other things, this included a virtual whistle stop tour that called in on all RINIS participants. Reason enough to sit down with Henk for a chat about his co-operative roots and his views on current topics in the area of digital government.

Henk Grevelman comes with a thirty year background in the financial services industry, during which he served as IT manager at AXA, CIO at Zwitserleven and as IT and programme director at Achmea, to name just of few of his previous posts. Describing himself as ‘not a die-hard IT exec’, he enjoys working at enhancing the performance of organisations, preferably with a social impact.

What would you say RINIS's great strength is?

‘RINIS is sitting on a gold mine: highly committed professionals with a high level of know-how who devise superlative quality products and services. Participants consider RINIS to be a flexible partner that thinks pragmatically and is quick to adapt. Qualities that are highly rated. Moreover, I find the co-operative participation model very appealing. Which could well be exactly where RINIS’s greatest strength lies.’

‘Participants consider RINIS to be a flexible partner that thinks pragmatically and is quick to adapt'

How do you mean?

‘Even though RINIS is an independent foundation, it exists by virtue of the government ministries and executive agencies that are its members. It was they who set up RINIS because they believed more could be achieved in terms of exchanging data by working shoulder to shoulder rather than each of them travailing by themselves. The idea behind RINIS is very similar to the co-operative philosophy in the way I was introduced to it at Achmea and other co-operatives. I’m a great believer in the power of this kind of model: of the members, for the members, by the members. RINIS provides its considered input to and works closely with participants to come up with solutions in a joint bid to do a better job of digitising the Netherlands and of unburdening citizens.’

When you say you are ‘not a die-hard IT exec’, what kind of director would you say you are instead?

‘What I mean by that is that I’m not a super techie but much more of a business and people-centred person. By nature I tend to put myself in the customer's or the citizen’s shoes and I seek to establish links between their world and the IT business. I want to connect, join forces and have an impact. That is what gives me a buzz. The “RINIS connects” slogan suits me down to a tee.’

‘I’m a great believer in the power of the co-operative philosophy behind RINIS: of the members, for the members, by the members’

We are keen to hear your views on a number of topical subjects. So we would like to run four statements by you from previous interviews posted on rinis.nl

‘RINIS stands for simplicity and stability. We should keep it that way’
(Interview with Henk Blindenbach, CIZ)

‘The government has spent many billions to mitigate the effects of the corona pandemic. In order to earn that money back, the government will need to start operating more efficiently. I expect digitalisation – and the exchange of digital data as a corollary thereof – will be playing an increasingly more important role in all of this. So there is a lot of work coming our way.’

‘In the meantime, it’s important that we keep our fundamentals shipshape. RINIS is part of the vital infrastructure of digital governance. We are all about guaranteed, reliable and secure data communications. Core values on which I place a high premium. So I’m definitely of the same mind as Henk.’

‘The consultation which takes place [at RINIS] contributes to building a sense of connection and consensus within e-government’
(interview with Martin van der Lugt, UWV - Employee Insurance Agency Netherlands)

‘RINIS Foundation belongs to, and is for and by the participants. A co-operative institution like RINIS provides a lot of energy and opportunities for an efficacious and enjoyable working relationship. Something I fully experienced during my time at Achmea. In addition, RINIS’s neutral position makes for a solid basis of trust to connect various parties. Wouldn't it be wonderful if we were to be able to contribute to the work and income chain for instance by working shoulder to shoulder with the Tax and Customs Administration, the SVB (Social Insurance Bank) and the UWV Employee Insurance Agency Netherlands?’

‘It’s important that we continue to invest in our relations. And building and harnessing relationships is a great fit with my own proclivities and skills. I’m a connector, always on the look-out for shared interests, wishes and goals. Over the next few months, we will be working on a joint strategic agenda, spearheads and programmes along with all participants. All of which is set to come together in the RINIS 2022-2025 business plan.’

RINIS is all about guaranteed, reliable and secure data communications. Core values on which I place a high premium’

‘The success [of European collaboration] is not just to do with technology, it is also rooted in the mindset of the partner organisations across the borders'
(Interview with Diana Starmans, SVB)

‘I can identify with Diana’s statement: working together is first and foremost about people and cultures. During my time at Zwitserleven, I would chair monthly consultation meetings with CIOs from eight different countries. Something which demands good listening skills, being mindful of different cultures, the ability to prevent vexations and the ability to undertake lobbying efforts.’

‘The exchange of data within Europe is expected to surge over the years ahead. I’m going to do my level best to seize opportunities in this area working in tandem with the participants. However, as a comparatively small organisation we need to keep our feet on the ground and not overstretch ourselves on projects or ideas that don't stand a chance of success.’

‘The transport of data relating to people will develop into a platform’
(Farewell interview former director Rob Verweij)

‘That is something I also identify with. I’m seeing a roundabout across which demanders and suppliers of information transact their digital data exchange operations. And there are other trends which touch on our core business. SSI for instance: self-sovereign identity. SSI is a technology that allows parties to swiftly and securely verify their identities, whereby they remain in control of their own data. We still don't have proper standardised solutions in place for the efficacious and trusted control and management of personal data.’

‘With every new technology that emerges, the questions we ask ourselves are: what is our take on this technology, can we implement this technology to the benefit of our participants, and - if so - how do we go about it? Our business plan for the years ahead outlines which internal and external developments we believe we’ll be seeing in the playing field of the participants and that of technology. We then translate these expected developments into joint spearheads and the multi-year programme planning. Along with my predecessor Rob Verweij, I spent the last few months conducting a virtual meet and greet whistle stop tour, calling in on all RINIS participants. Which proved very valuable.’

‘Other than that, we need to continue to properly consider the development of our own technological environment. We need to make sure we are ready today to meet tomorrow’s demands. I’ve been known to liken us to a Formula 1 team that engineers a better engine year after year. Our job now is to think, in tandem with our participants, about the specifications of our next engine block.’