He may have reserved more than 30 pages of his final Commission of Audit report for shared services and ICT, but Peter Costello has left the door right open for the Queensland Government to re-shape its technology supply as it sees fit.
Speaking to Intermedium this morning, Minister for Science, IT, Innovation and the Arts Ian Walker said that industry should take his Government's acceptance of the recommendations as a broad declaration of its ICT direction, but that it would have to wait and see how this would materialise in day-to-day practice.
"We have accepted the Costello recommendation that ICT should be provided to us externally as a service, that we should move to a cloud model, that we should introduce contestability to our own shared services division, and that we should move to have CITEC operating outside of government within a period of two years.
"[But] as you'd expect the Costello Report is a big document for government and there will be a lot of ministers lining up now with their specific responses to the various big decisions that will now be taken in relation to the recommendations of that report. So I will release a plan as soon as possible and my department is already working on it.
"I know that the industry is very keen to hear about all of that but it is just too early to go into it in detail," he said.
This may be all we can know ahead of the release of the State's new ICT Strategy in June. But for the time being, we can look at the key options that are likely to be on the table.
Costello's emphasis on contestability over centrally mandated shared services plays perfectly into Government CIO Peter Grant's proposed service executive model, first unveiled in August last year.
At its heart, the model is based around up to three individuals or Service Executives who are accountable for lining up the supply chains needed to meet the Government's ICT goals. The vendors may be from the private sector, they might be shared services providers such as QSS, or they might even be other jurisdictions, with value-for-money the only criteria.
Agencies would be mandated to use the Service Executive's chosen arrangements for certain areas of their ICT needs, and unlike the current shared services model, Grant explained last year, the Service Executives would have a very serious incentive to find the best deals for the State.
"Someone has to get a bus ticket home if it doesn't work properly," he said.
Walker acknowledged that he had been in discussion with Grant about shared services alternatives.
"Peter has discussed a number of different models with me. Again we are not committing to any one model at the moment. We are considering it all in the context of an overall response to the Costello report," he said.
With CITEC due to be privatised, Queensland will also be looking for new ICT infrastructure solutions - and they will be looking for them from the cloud. It would be plausible to think that the Government might look to sell or lease off the space it currently has in the Polaris data centre and/or ask a managed service provider to deliver it back them on an on-demand basis.
One detail the report did reveal was a business case in the works for a whole-of-government migration to a cloud email solution, anticipated to save as much as $20 million a year - but this was also too young a project for the Minister to make comment.
"The big news is that there is a commitment by government to move to cloud. The specific details are what are working on at the moment, and we will certainly release that for the industry's advice and for them to be aware of as soon as we work the detail through," he said.
If the Government decided to eschew a centralised scheme altogether, we could see a purchasing environment similar to that of the Federal Market emerge, where agencies are left to decide whether to maintain an in-house ICT shop or outsource to a managed service provider. Many, such as the Australian Taxation Office and Department of Immigration and Citizenship in particular, elect for the second option.
Walker said that he did not expect that the Costello recommendations would delay the release of the ICT Strategy, adding that they "are not a big u-turn from the way we were thinking anyway".