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Sunshine State welcomes in the cloud for whole-of-government contracts management

by Paris Cowan •
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The Queensland Government has commenced the roll-out of a single Contracts Lifecycle Management solution to be provided by Open Windows and externally hosted using the Microsoft Azure cloud computing platform.

Agencies will be able to buy access to the solution through a monthly general user subscription to a set of five standard procurement management modules and another two premium modules. The monthly user subscription fee will cover infrastructure hosting, software licences and software maintenance.

“The new solution provides agencies with a central repository of all contracts as well as a ‘workflow’ that simplifies, standardises and automates the processes for managing a contract’s entire lifecycle,” said a spokesperson for the Department for Housing and Public Works, which oversees all whole-of-government procurement in Queensland.

The Government has signed a four-year standing offer arrangement (SOA) with contract management specialists Open Windows which commenced on 20 January 2012 and will run until January 2016, with three allowable 12 month extensions after that.

According to Open Windows, a four month pilot of the Q-CONTRACTS solution with selected Queensland agencies was due to finish up in June 2012, which means remaining agencies should now be getting on board the new platform.

Open Windows boasts 17 years experience developing contract lifecycle management solutions, and a customer base including the Tasmanian, Western Australian and South Australian Governments, which have all deployed similar platforms to Q-CONTRACTS to keep track of their procurement processes. Former Victorian Premier Jeff Kennett is Chairman of the Open Windows Board.

The finalisation of the SOA between Queensland and Open Windows follows a lengthy tender process which commenced with an approach to market in November 2010.

The Q-CONTRACTS SOA was originally scheduled to start on 31 March 2011, almost a year earlier than the actual January 2012 commencement date of the deal, suggesting that unexpected obstacles were encountered by the Chief Procurement Office along the way.

The statement of requirements said that the Government was pursuing an opportunity to help agencies “to improve their contract development and management processes”.

“It is envisaged that significant gains in productivity and uniformity can be achieved by systematically and efficiently managing contract creation, collaboration, execution, administration, reporting and analysis as a continuum throughout the contract lifecycle,” said the tender documents.

Vendors were asked to submit solutions that could be provided as Software-as-a-Service, externally hosted in a private cloud or internally hosted.

Cloud computing has already been put forward as an attractive option for the operation of other IT functions within the budget-conscious Queensland Government. Science, IT, Innovation and Arts Minister Ros Bates suggested earlier in the year that a cloud-based whole-of-Government email solution could replace the scrapped Identity, Directory and Email Services (IDES) program.

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