August 28 will mark the 1st anniversary of the tabling of Sir Peter Gershon’s report into Federal Government ICT. With a significant change agenda, Gershon presented many challenges for government to deliver.
Sir Peter Gershon’s report into Federal Government ICT was not a happy one. His cover letter to Minister Tanner concluded: “Not withstanding the work undertaken to date, the current model of weak governance of ICT . leads to sub-optimal outcomes in the context of prevailing external trends, financial returns, and the aims and objectives of this Government.”
Gershon recommended “a major program of both administrative reform of, and cultural change from, a status quo where agency autonomy is a longstanding characteristic of the Australian Public Service.”
Over the last twelve months, Federal Government ICT has undergone one of the most comprehensive makeovers in Canberra’s history. From the outset it was clear Gershon’s recommendations would require a big change agenda, but these changes could not be delivered in isolation of other concurrent changes:
- The peak impact of the Global Financial Crisis;
- Wider procurement reforms such as the introduction of Volume Sourcing Arrangements and changes to the Commonwealth Procurement Guidelines and;
- Fundamental changes to communications infrastructure through the introduction of the National Broadband Network.
Together, these changes combined to deliver a cocktail that touched every part of the government ICT industry.
Gershon’s own agenda was significant, focusing on six areas of change:
a. Provide increased focus on ICT at a Ministerial and Agency Head level through the creation of new governance structures
b. Change the whole-of-government focus from optional opt-in, to one of opt-out based on appropriate approvals
a. Improve capability within agencies to manage and realise the benefits from ICT-enabled projects
3. ICT Spend
a. Reducing the proportion of Business As Usual (BAU) expenditure and harvest savings for whole of government strategic investment
4. APS skills base
a. Create a whole-of-government Australian Public Service (APS) ICT career structure
b. Develop and maintain a whole-of-government strategic ICT workforce plan.
c. Reduce the total number of ICT contractors in use across FMA Act agencies by 50%
5. Data centres
a. Develop a whole-of-government approach for future data centre requirements over the next 10–15 years
6. Sustainable ICT
a. Develop a whole-of-government ICT sustainability plan
With demonstrated achievements in all areas, government is right to take some satisfaction. But the job is not done yet. More work is still scheduled in all areas.
Intermedium understands that the Gershon recommendations were broken into 42 distinct projects. Of these:
- Twelve have already been delivered
- Twenty-one are currently under way
- Nine are yet to start
However the biggest challenge will be to “operationalise” the Gershon changes so they become part of the new government ICT landscape. Otherwise they will diminish in time, reverting back to old ways of doing business.