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ABS steps forward with $235 million transformation

by Euan Brown •
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The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) is looking for an Enterprise Data Management Environment (EDME) and related services as part of its once-in-a-generation overhaul of ICT and business processes. The Request For Tender (RFT) published last week calls for an EDME to provide “a single logical data store for use across all phases of the statistical process.”

The agency’s transformation is underpinned by the Federal Government’s $235 million 2015-16 Budget allocation to enhance capacity and update ageing ICT systems. In May 2015 the ABS revealed that one in three ICT applications are classified unreliable, and one in six are no longer vendor supported because of outdated technology. ABS ICT systems have threatened core business functions including the operation of the 2016 Census.

The Statistical Business Transformation Programme (SBTP) is tasked with standardising ABS processes, tools, and methodologies, modernising infrastructure, and transforming “the ABS service model to facilitate greater innovation, more data analysis and tailored service delivery.”

The SBTP will “re-engineer [the ABS’s] business processes to focus on providing services and information solutions through assembly of data and data processes, rather than focussing on ‘made to order’ processes and products,” according to tender documents.

Tender documents reveal that by investing in a new EDME, the agency is aiming to:

  • Create an environment to store and manage data;
  • improve the capability to receive and access data in the ABS environment;
  • improve efficiency of data management; and,
  • advance "statistical data quality by providing consistent storage of data across the statistical programme portfolio" and reduce sources of error from manual and double-handling of data.

“While it is understood EDME will have components to store, view, access, and manage data, the ABS is seeking an integrated solution which enables EDME to be managed and provisioned by a set of consistent services in a Service-oriented architecture (SOA) environment."

The ABS has specified the following requirements:

1) EDME services which have been dis-aggregated into three sub-components that suppliers can either tender for individually or in-whole, they are:

  • Unit Dataset and Unit Data Structure Designer – a facility to enable users to design Unit Datasets and store metadata descriptions in the Metadata Registry & Repository (MRR);
  • Reporting and Data Viewing Tool – an intuitive tool to provide the ability to perform simple interrogations and reports of data in EDME;
  • Data Manager – to provide ABS staff access to the functionality provided by the Transaction Storage Solution and the Analytical Storage and Data Warehouse solution.

2) Data Virtualisation to create a single ‘logical’ data management environment. The solution is required to be integrated with the MRR. Solutions featuring native connectors for the data formats used by the ABS, such as Oracle and SuperStar, will be prioritised.

3) A Transactional Storage Solution to provide the ability to secure and track access to data, record data versioning, import/export data in several formats, scale and manage load for high volumes of data, and provide access to data via an SQL interface. While the ABS is seeking an established solution, it is also interested in creating a bespoke solution should that be necessary.

4) An Analytical Storage and Data Warehouse Solution that can integrate with MRR services “to dynamically generate and maintain suitable analytical processing tables.” The data warehouse solution must support Single-Source-of-Truth (SSOT) while using MRR to support Master Data Management. 

The ABS anticipates that the solutions will either be ‘out-of-the-box’, pre-built and extended/modified to meet ABS requirements, ‘built solutions’ to be developed on current ABS platforms, or platform based offers. The last category of offer will only be considered “where additional functionality complements or replaces existing ABS platforms”.

Any proposed EDME solution must be compliant with the Australian Signal Directorate’s Information Security Manual.

According to the 2015-16 Budget, the ABS is set to spend $20.8 million on the Statistical Business Transformation Programme (SBTP) this financial year. The ABS anticipates that the EDME solution will cost roughly $10 to $15 million, according to tender documents.

The ABS expects the EDME project to be implemented over a 12 month period beginning in January 2016. Submissions to this tender must be completed by 5 August 2015.

The ABS has also released its planned ICT procurement schedule for the 2015/16 year:   

  • Service Orientated Architecture products and services (Quarter 1 2015/2016);
  • Intelligent character recognition scanners (Quarter 1 2015/2016);
  • Search Engine for ABS Website (Quarter 2 2015/2016);
  • Authoring Software (Quarter 2 2015/2016);
  • Intelligent Forms Processing Licences (Quarter 2 2015/2016); and
  • Presentation capture system (Quarter 3 2015/2016). 

According to Analyse IT, the ABS’s largest contract by value in 2014-15 was its engagement with IBM for the Design, Development and Implementation of the 2016 eCensus Solution valued at $9.6 million.

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