The NSW Minister for Finance and Services, Greg Pearce, has indicated that he wants to see a shift in focus away from short-term cost saving measures, and towards long-term return on investment in the whole-of-government ICT Strategy currently under development.
“Short term cost-cutting measures have resulted in sub-optimal return on investment, through higher long-term costs and lower productivity gains. A shift in strategy and governance must take place in order to realise the government’s vision for ICT,” he said at an ICT strategy forum held at Parliament House on Friday 17 June.
Pearce was joined by Treasurer Mike Baird, Deputy Premier Andrew Stoner and Director General of the Department of Finance and Services (DFS), Michael Coutts-Trotter, who spoke to an audience comprised government and industry representatives.
“We want to avoid the perception of an undue focus on procurement,” Pearce said.
The sentiment was backed up by Mike Baird, who suggested that the previous Labor Government had become lost in the nitty gritty of savings measures.
“I got the sense from the opposition benches that there was no interest in innovation, no interest in real partnerships. What it was all about was how to get this particular widget at the lowest possible cost,” he said.
“This sort of approach is not focused, its not sustainable and it leads to very poor outcomes,” he said.
However Baird did concede that there were some “low hanging fruit” that could be used as efficiency measures to kick start the Government’s ICT vision, including data management, application rationalisation and shared services.
Several mentions of shared services by speakers gave a strong indication this initiative has retained its place on the ICT agenda despite the change of government.
The Department of Premier and Cabinet released the Blueprint for Corporate and Shared Services in 2010, which set in motion reforms which aimed to consolidate corporate services into six clusters.
The clusters were based around the 12 super departments in place under the previous government, an administrative structure which has since been trimmed down to just nine departmental clusters since the election. It remains unclear how the shared services model will apply to the new arrangements, however the upcoming September budget may shed further light on this.
Pearce also said that a consolidation of the business systems, email and other desktop applications used within the NSW Government was on the cards. The consolidation of back office systems, and rationalisation of email and other corporate applications was also a centrepiece of the previous NSW ICT Strategy, People First, which expired last year.
According to Mike Baird, once these short-term savings were made, an optimum ICT spend could be locked in on an annual basis across government, rather than the continued pursuit of ICT budget cuts.
Pearce revealed that an announcement regarding new ICT governance arrangements would be made in the coming weeks. He said it would reflect plans to incorporate the ICT industry into the policy process.
“It is absolutely paramount that industry has a seat at the table, and is in a strong position to advise the government on sector-wide ICT matters. I’m sure there will be some announcements along these lines in due course,” he said.
In December 2010, it was revealed that the NSW Government Chief Information Office (GCIO), within the Department of Services, Technology and Administration (DSTA) would be restructured following a review into the government’s ICT strategy and governance which was conducted by Ernst & Young.
One of the features of the proposed Ernst & Young structure was the establishment of an ICT Advisory Panel made up of industry members who could contribute private sector expertise and innovative ideas.
While it is understood that the redistribution of GCIO staff has taken place, other elements were not implemented prior to the election.
The ICT governance model proposed in December also included a ministerial-level ICT control board, the replacement of the CIO Executive Council with a CIO Executive Network made up of one representative from each of the super-agencies, and a realignment of GCIO staff into policy and operational functions.
As part of the restructure of the GCIO Office, the position of Government Chief Information Officer was transferred to the Director-General of the DSTA (now DFS), who at the time was Peter Duncan. Former Education head Michael Coutts-Trotter has taken over the role, and the title of GCIO with it, at least for the time being.
Interestingly Coutts-Trotter, then Director General of the Department of Commerce, was responsible for the appointment of former GCIOs Paul Edgecumbe and Emmanuel Rodriguez.
All the speakers at the morning forum emphasised that innovation and industry involvement would be the key characteristics of the upcoming ICT strategy.
Industry representatives made up a large part of the audience at the forum, which continued behind closed doors after media were ushered out.
Pearce reiterated his foundational priorities for the strategy, which include:
- Alignment of service delivery objectives to improve the quality and responsiveness of services;
- Facilitating sustainable efficiency gains through strategic and targeted ICT investment; and
- More effective Government interaction with industry and the research sector.