The Victorian Government will appoint a whole-of-government ICT chief, ask agencies to identify opportunities to adopt cloud, and conduct a review of its key ICT State Purchase Contracts as part of the roll-out of its first ever State-wide ICT Strategy launched today.
Technology Minister Gordon Rich-Phillips has used the AIIA’s annual Victorian Ministerial Forum to surprise delegates with a final version of the strategy, which was released in draft form for consultation in October last year.
It is the work of a State Government which sees itself as the rightful leader of public sector ICT innovation in Australia, despite being prevented from meeting this full potential by a series of disastrous and expensive speed bumps.
According to the Minister’s introduction it “aims to rebuild the strong ICT leadership position previously enjoyed by Victoria during the 1990s, so that we can again benefit from successful, innovative ICT initiatives.”
High profile ICT failures of the past and present cast a long shadow across the document.
Loaded statements suggest that the State’s troubled ICT shared services agency CenITex could be facing a restructure, or even dissolution. “At the infrastructure level,” it says, “Government will progressively withdraw from direct serviced delivery”.
It is also the work of a relatively new Government desperate to distance itself from an estimated $1.44 billion in ICT project budget blowouts.
As foreshadowed in the draft release of the Strategy, the Government wants major ICT projects to be broken down into stages, reviewed regularly, and cancelled prior to becoming “money-pits” to avoid the repetition of catastrophes such as the now cancelled HealthSMART and budget-bursting Myki.
“Project success is jeopardised without a sound business case and planning phase.
“There will be a focus on clear business sponsorship and accountability and greater focus on needs identification and business process change before starting projects,” says the plan.
These may seem like painfully obvious project management mantras, but Victoria’s ICT past has proved that bypassing them can drain the State’s pocket very quickly.
Last year the Victorian Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee heard that a project timeline for the Myki electronic ticketing system was approved despite detailing a roll-out three years speedier than any other city had been able to achieve in the past. The business case for the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development’s (DEECD) $180 million Ultranet was described as “basically a couple of pages”. And the Victoria Police’s LINK operational policing system replacement notoriously hit its first turbulence when its business case was written to meet a project budget that had already been set.
The Strategy also reveals that members of the ICT industry should be prepared to play a greater role in the State’s ICT operations into the future.
It has opened up a window of opportunity for pitching fit-for-purpose cloud solutions to Victorian agencies, with all agencies required to have identified opportunities to pursue service-based ICT offerings by July this year and to be able to demonstrate their use by December.
Under the plan, the Victorian Government will also take a long hard look at its own capability against that of the industry, to identify areas that could be more efficiently operated by someone else.
“Smart businesses routinely and carefully consider what areas to outsource and what to keep close. Similarly, we must continually explore what can be outsourced – with the potential to wholly outsource some services,” it says.
The implementation of the strategy will be overseen by a newly appointed whole-of-government technology tsar, who will sit within the Department of Business and Innovation (DBI), with the title of Chief Technology Advocate. In addition, the Government is also in the process of reviewing a consolidation of key whole-of-government functions, such as strategy, policy, architecture, standards and procurement into DBI to support the Chief Technology Advocate’s role.
The Victorian Government has not had a single cross-government technology leader since its Government Chief Information Officer role was dissolved in 2007.
The replacement of the whole-of-government Telecommunications Purchasing and Management Strategy (TPAMS) with a unified, vendor neutral communications platform has also been raised as a distinct possibility.
“The next generation of the telecommunications purchasing and management strategy needs to create a common, high-speed, integrated platform for government communications – but this does not mean a single provider.
“Unified communications represents a major opportunity, particularly in the area of emergency services,” it says.
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