The Victorian Information and Communications Technology Advisory Committee (VICTAC) has submitted its first draft whole-of-government ICT Strategy to the Government, a high level roadmap intended to reform the operations of a State that has been home to more than its fair share of Australia’s biggest ICT failures.
The effect of these failures is tangible right across the plan, which suggests that nothing short of a major shift in approach will be sufficient to ensure that they are not repeated. If the final approved version of the strategy, due in December, follows along the same lines it will see Victoria move towards a staged approach to major ICT projects, outsourcing and cloud computing, and commercial-off-the-shelf or reused ICT.
It could also lead to major reforms to the procurement landscape, of the sort that are currently underway within NSW.
Big projects to little projects
VICTAC has recognised that the bigger an ICT project is, the harder it will fall.
In response it has outlined a fragmented approach to ICT management focussing on smaller, staged actions forming part of a larger program.
“This approach should improve delivery timelines and reduce the risk of delivery issues,” said Assistant Treasurer and Technology Minister Gordon Rich-Phillips in a statement.
A recent parliamentary inquiry into major infrastructure projects heard how the now scrapped HealthSMART project grew too unwieldy and complex, forcing it to be halted despite more than $500 million having already been spent.
The draft strategy says this approach could similarly be applied to ICT contracts, with shorter terms to be favoured into the future.
VICTAC hopes that breaking these projects into pieces will make them more manageable, and will make it easier to put the brakes on ailing programs before they become “money pits”.
“A staged approach to project delivery will provide us with more opportunities to review progress and take corrective action quickly,” says the draft strategy.
Customisation to sharing and reuse
The same parliamentary inquiry heard in August that the base solution for State’s public transport e-ticketing project, Myki, had undergone more than 350 customisations since the deal between the Victorian Government and its selected contractor Kamco was signed, with the project’s budget increasing in parallel.
“With every change, can you not see computer contractors rubbing their hands with glee?” asked Deputy Ombudsman John Taylor.
In response VICTAC has resolved to focus on Commercial off the Shelf (COTS) solutions when they are available, and to change business processes to accommodate the new technology rather than the other way around.
It has also suggested that the Government set up a State-wide register of existing government IT solutions to promote sharing and re-use between agencies. The register would work alongside a peer-review process allowing agency CIOs to examine one-another’s projects and identify opportunities to recycle systems before they go to market.
Insourcing to outsourcing (...and all the way to the cloud)
VICTAC has also heralded a greater shift towards the outsourcing of ICT functions within the State, placing it on the same path as its fellow Coalition Governments in NSW and Queensland.
“We need to identify the things we will resource internally and the things that should be done by commercial providers. We want to take full advantage of the expertise on our doorstep as, as well as the economies of scale of our major suppliers,” says the draft strategy.
“Traditional ICT delivery models need to be challenged,” says the draft strategy, which has also opened up the possibility of greater cloud deployment as an option to meet the needs of a cash-strapped State.
The Department of Business and Innovation’s (DBI) deployment of the cloud-based Salesforce CRM solution has been highlighted as the kind of approach that should be emulated by the rest of the Victorian public sector, as the agency estimates that its choice will have saved it 40 per cent on a custom built alternative over a five year term.
What would NSW do?
The Draft ICT Strategy has not been formulated in a vacuum, and it would appear that its authors have kept a keen watch on developments to their north, where the NSW Government is busy transforming its own ICT agenda.
The neighbouring States have been on parallel paths when it comes to their respective IT services arrangements, the Victorian eServices panel and NSW’s State Contract 2020, which are both facing significant simplification of their inclusion processes.
NSW has since announced that the remainder of its fleet of State Contracts are on the same trajectory.
The Victorian draft strategy has hinted towards a similar plan, with a demand that “procurement processes need to be more efficient”.
“Alternative procurement models and contract mechanisms such as public private partnerships will be explored,” it has indicated.
Increased industry consultation and governance reforms have also been included on the Victorian agenda, at the same time as NSW enters into a second round of applications for its ICT Advisory Panel.
The VICTAC itself represents the first stage of these reforms. It is made up of eight agency CIOs alongside six industry members representing companies such as Cisco, SMS, ANZ Bank and Australia Post. The Committee is chaired by former South Australian Government CIO Grantly Mailes.
The Victorian Government is inviting public feedback on the draft strategy, with submissions to remain open until 17 October 2012. A final strategy is due to be presented to the Victorian Government by December 2012, and implementation is set to continue through to 2014.