A major new shared services agency, ServiceFirst, has been created within the Department of Commerce, with no fanfare and no publicity.
ServiceFirst provides shared corporate services to a large number of NSW Government agencies. It brings together the former CCSU, CSS and Department of Commerce Shared Services.
ServiceFirst appears to be a first step in the implementation of back-office rationalisation, one of the features of People First, the NSW Government’s ICTStrategic Plan.
With 540 staff, ServiceFirst provides services in IT, Human Resources, Financial Services and Human Services. The agency claims that more than 80 clients (agencies) which together employ approximately 8,800 staff now use ServiceFirst.
The ServiceFirst website states client agencies benefiting from the provision of a range of specialist professional services including secure, supported IT networks, the processing of invoices and wages, delivery of financial reports and expertise in managing office accommodation and fleet.
While ServiceFirst is part of the Department of Commerce, it is clear that the new agency is being given an independent identity. There is no information about ServiceFirst and no link from the Department of Commerce site, and the new agency doesn’t appear on the Commerce organisation chart.
In addition, an independent advisory board of shared service experts, public and private, has been established to advise and drive the performance of ServiceFirst. Wayne Houston (previously with the now defunct Department of Primary Industry and Natural Resources and prior to that Deputy CIO at the Department of Education and Training), is the CIO of ServiceFirst and Geoff Tye (formerly the CIO of Commerce) is General Manager, Strategic IT. Paul Campbell is the Director of Business Services.
The implementation of ServiceFirst now begs the question of what might happen to BusinessLink Pty Ltd, the shared services entity which was brought into Commerce following the last election. With a similar role to ServiceFirst, BusinessLink provides shared corporate services to the three human services agencies in NSW:
- Department of Ageing, Disability and Home Care (DADHC)
- Department of Community Services (DoCS)
- Housing NSW (Housing)
Established in late 2002, BusinessLink was formed under the NSW Government program to reform corporate services across the public sector. At these agencies, BusinessLink supports more than 16,000 employees in almost 400 locations. As such its client base is almost double that of ServiceFirst.
It is not yet known whether there are any plans to merge the two entities, but the fact that both are located within the Department of Commerce and perform essentially identical roles, albeit for different client groups, is very telling. If they were to merge, the resulting agency would certainly change the face of the NSW Government ICT market and introduce another powerful buyer into the mix.