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NSW Shared Services: Transport makes a move

by Paris Cowan •
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New South Wales Transport agencies are not renowned for being on time, but when it comes to the transfer of the State Government’s corporate functions to shared services arrangements, Transport NSW appears to have already achieved the progress required towards its tactical, short term ‘Horizon 1’.

However, their pioneering example has also uncovered obstacles that have the potential to impact other Departments in the state-wide move to consolidated arrangements.

The NSW Department of Premier and Cabinet (DPC) released the Blueprint for Corporate and Shared Services in the NSW Government in July 2010, which outlines plans to form six shared services clusters, one for each of the five largest super departments, and one for the remainder. 

The shared services clusters are: Health; Education and Training; NSW Police (which will also look after Emergency Services, even though they are not now part of this super department); Human Services; and Transport NSW. 

The final shared services unit, ServiceFirst, is located within the Department of Services, Technology and Administration (DSTA) and will supply those agencies which remain.  Information Technology is one of the key back-office functions to be transferred under the Blueprint.

A Transport NSW spokesperson has confirmed that staff have already been seconded from the operational transport entities into temporary assignments within the Transport Shared Services (TSS) division, and that the division is now operational.

The secondment is intended to run for 9 to 12 months, at the end of which permanent arrangements will be put in place.

The Blueprint outlines three time horizons which should mark the achievement of key objectives:

  • short term tactical - by 2010;
  • medium term, – commencing in 2010 and spanning 2011; and
  • longer term, transformational change to commence in 2010 and be achieved by 2012. 

It would seem that Transport NSW’s assignment of staff to TSS represents the achievement of the first of these deadlines.

In a factsheet published on the website of the Australian Services Union (ASU), Transport NSW indicates that it has committed to retaining all current staff, including approximately 150 IT personnel. 

An undertaking has been given that if a staff member does not obtain a role within TSS, then they return to their original agency as a displaced employee and go through the set process for handling such employees.   

This commitment will impact on the rate at which cost savings and other efficiencies can be achieved as staff costs are the single greatest expense in government administration. 

The precedent now set by Transport NSW, in particular the agreements on transitional arrangements reached with staff and union regarding the TSS division, is likely to shape the actions of other shared services clusters as they make the same transition.

Finding the desired cost efficiencies will also be made more difficult for TSS by an unwillingness to move staff from their current locations.

The fact sheet states that “there is no plan to move anyone from their current location. Transport Shared Services remains particularly committed to maintaining our presence in regional areas, as well as maintaining our presence in Western Sydney and Burwood. If a group wishes to co-locate with other functions we are happy to consider this option”.

However, a key part of the Blueprint’s ‘case for change’ was the amalgamation of the workforce to service multiple clients, to provide increased depth of skills, to achieve increased supervisor/agent ratios, to increase staff utilisation and have greater flexibility in its workforce.  It is hard to visualise how these objectives are to be achieved with staff housed in several different locations.

The ultimate goal of the Blueprint is the achievement of an “end state” (ie Horizon 3) which will:

  • “Provide improved levels of service (benchmarked against the current baseline service), whilst not degrading current service during transition;
  • Align user expectations of service (tangible and intangible) with agreed levels of service;
  • Have services delivered centrally from the point that maximises customer service outcomes;
  • Perform standardised delivery of service that also achieves balance with customer responsiveness and intimacy needs (standardised back office and a customised front office); and
  • Rectify current areas of poor service”.

The move to a consolidated shared services arrangement has been made easier for Transport after legislation was passed in June to further integrate the cluster’s comprising agencies, under the authority of Transport NSW as the lead agency.  As a result of the structural reforms, the operating entities such as the State Transit Authority, RailCorp and RTA will focus on service delivery, while the lead agency will manage a single transport budget and strategic policy development and planning.

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