Canberra IT suppliers were offered a candid view of Centrelink at its highly successful IT Open Day on 23 November.
The full day event attracted about 80 attendees and featured in depth presentations and breakout workshops on Centrelink’s IT environment and directions. Senior IT staff, including General Managers Louise Tucker, Tuan Do and Helen Skrzeczek, were available for informal discussion throughout the day and, in a trade fair atmosphere, staffed foyer stands relating to particular areas of Centrelink interest.
Centrelink CIO John Wadeson said he wanted the Open Day to help suppliers “build an understanding of the world we live in and what we might be interested in talking to you about”. He told attendees that Centrelink systems had been 25 years in the making, successfully delivering a complex and changing welfare system, and “what we have is what we have”.
Mr. Wadeson outlined Centrelink’s IT governance structure and its key stakeholders. He described the environment as one in which government assumes that major IT projects are the biggest risks. The current focus of the new Centrelink IT Committee is priority setting and assessment of IT performance.
Mr Wadeson also pointed to recent successes in extending online services and in natural language recognition.
Corporate applications architect Steve Crisp gave a detailed presentation on Centrelink’s primary system ISIS and its Model 204 platform, including its evolution over the last 25 years. He rejected the common view that ISIS was an ageing legacy system, saying that Centrelink had undertaken progressive re-writes and redevelopment of ISIS and that the majority of the code was less than 2 years old. ISIS provides a single view of the customer, with no information silos or disparate backend systems.
Mr. Crisp said that Model 204 provided Centrelink with capabilities not readily available in relational database products, particularly in managing the history of data items which was important to Centrelink business processes. Model 204 also supports high levels of responsiveness and performance for Centrelink staff, and is comparatively inexpensive, based on recent benchmarking.
Mr. Crisp said that, contrary to widespread belief, Centrelink was not the biggest Model 204 user in the world, with 2 (unnamed) intelligence agencies having larger databases. These agencies used Model 204 for the same reasons as Centrelink, namely its performance with massive volumes of data. Centrelink has an enterprise licensing agreement for Model 204 to 2014.
Other presentations and workshops dealt with more specific areas of interest, such as information, security and infrastructure architectures, mobile computing, skills requirements and IT sourcing.
Industry attendees were highly supportive of the Open Day, with a number praising the openness and engagement of the Centrelink staff and saying they hoped it would become an annual event.