• Catch issues early, fix them fast – Free trial


    [ad] With GFI Cloud you can easily manage and secure your remote workforce – wherever they are, from wherever you are! The simple IT management platform includes patch management, antivirus, web protection, monitoring and remote control. Get the benefit of endpoint protection with the ease of central management. Start a free trial now.


  • Great articles on other sites
  • RSS Great articles on other sites


  • Enterprise IT, News - Written by on Tuesday, January 8, 2013 13:55 - 7 Comments

    $180m Vic Ultranet project a complete failure

    burning-money

    news Victoria’s Auditor-General has published a damning report classifying the state’s $180 million Ultranet educational technology project as broadly a complete failure, with the project being hardly used by the state’s students and teachers and being delivered late, over budget and with significant contract probity issues.

    The project was first mooted in the middle of the last decade, with its 2007 business case (following an earlier trial) promoting it as having the capacity to deliver an “intuitive, student-centred electronic learning environment” that would allow teachers, students and staff to access curriculum content, records, student reports and community features. After an initial pilot in 2006, when the project was dubbed ‘Student@Centre’, the system was then deployed to all Victorian Government schools throughout 2010, on the back of a contract announced in June 2009 with IT services group CSG, which in 2008 bought CingleVue, another local firm specialising in implementing Oracle solutions in the education sector. The project was based on Oracle technology.

    In 2009, CSG said at the time that the Ultranet solution would be “truly world class”. Then-CSG chief executive Denis Mackenzie commented “This will be the first true enterprise solution deployed in P-12 education in Australia, and is one of the first systems in the world to offer such a high level of functionality to students, teachers, parents and administrators.”

    However, a report published in late December by the Victorian Auditor-General has found that the project has suffered myriad problems. For starters, the auditor wrote, the project as a whole was “poorly planned and implemented”. “None of its three business cases had a well thought out needs analysis or gave considered options to deliver the project. The various business cases did not answer the ‘Why invest?’ question for the Ultranet, nor did they provide a sound basis for the project’s approval,” the report states, noting that six years after its announcement, the Ultranet project had not delivered its main objectives.

    Furthermore, the project continues “despite advice from central agencies that it should cease or be delayed”, with Victoria’s education department apparently ignoring advice on the subject by the departments of the Premier and Treasury.

    “It is difficult to understand why the Ultranet procurement was able to proceed to contract execution, given the significant concerns raised by DPC and DTF, as well as the many adverse ratings that DEECD had received from various Gateway reviews since the project first commenced,” the report states. “Further, this audit detected a number of serious process and probity issues in relation to tendering and procurement for the Ultranet. DEECD has advised that it has commenced a number of actions and further detailed investigations in response to these matters.”

    The auditor wrote that they had little confidence that financial management practices relating to the project were sound. The project appears likely to have blown out in total cost to about $180 million — triple what it was initially expected to cost — and use of the project is declining, with on average, only 10 percent of students and 27 percent of teachers in Victoria logging on to the platform on a monthly basis from July 2011 through May 2012.

    The auditor-general recommended the state’s education department urgently develop a comprehensive strategy to deal with the implementation of learning technologies in schools, as well as urgently reviewing its investment in Ultranet — and considering whether to pursue legal action against CSG. One option is to scrap the project as a whole, while another is to continue to fund it and fix the issues.

    The Age newspaper has quoted Victorian Education Minister Martin Dixon as stating that the project was a failure of the previous Labor administration in Victoria and that he had had strong reservations about the project since the Coalition took power in the state in December 2010.

    The news comes as the Victorian Government is struggling with almost all of its major IT projects at the moment. In November 2011, the Victorian Ombudsman handed down one of the most damning assessments of public sector IT project governance in Australia’s history, noting total cost over-runs of $1.44 billion, extensive delays and a general failure to actually deliver on stated aims in 10 major IT projects carried out by the state over the past half-decade.

    In its its first response to the report, in June last year, Victoria appointed former South Australian whole of state government chief information officer Grantly Mailes, to lead a committee (VICTAC) to establish a new wide-ranging IT strategy to resolve Victoria’s ongoing problems with IT service and project delivery. It also appointed a high-level advisory committee led by Mailes which would provide advice on a new whole of government ICT strategy to rectify the ongoing problems.

    Mailes’ office recently released the draft of a new whole of government information and communications technology strategy, with which it aims to start addressing the extensive IT project and service delivery issues. Most of the other states are suffering similar problems with IT project governance and service delivery, with the worst problems likely being suffered in Queensland, where the state in mid-December last year appointed a royal commission into the payroll systems disaster at Queensland Health.

    opinion/analysis
    I’ve been harping on about this for several years now. State Government IT in Australia is an absolute catastrophe of epic proportions right now — billions of dollars being wasted, projects simply not delivering on their outcomes, colossal setbacks in public service delivery. This situation is most likely the biggest issue in enterprise IT in Australia right now, bar none.

    submit to reddit

    7 Comments

    You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

    1. tinman_au
      Posted 08/01/2013 at 5:37 pm | Permalink |

      I didn’t know you smoked cigars Renai!! :p

      But seriously, there’s too much “we know what’s best for you” going on in IT at the moment and not enough “How can we help folks do things better/easier/faster”. IT needs to get back to client focused, and not “What is the best way to give me a job” focused. That super-duper system may sound great at meetings, but if no one wants to use it, it may as well just be a $180m pot-plant…

    2. Dan
      Posted 08/01/2013 at 11:45 pm | Permalink |

      As far as State IT disasters go this one has nothing on the Qld Health payroll fiasco in terms of cost blowout/fix up costs, but it looks like this one was 100% outsourced, which is a bit more of a concern. The Qld disaster was primarily of the States own internal IT department’s making

    3. Douglas
      Posted 09/01/2013 at 9:30 am | Permalink |

      Thanks for providing such good ongoing coverage of State and Fed Govt IT issues Renai.
      Oz Govt Depts can well and truly piss money against the wall with the best of them it seems.

      • Posted 09/01/2013 at 10:01 am | Permalink |

        No worries. It’s a huge issue — billions of dollars of taxpayer money are literally being thrown against the wall here — personally, I find it hard to believe at times that things are so bad. Taking this project as an example, right from the original contract there were probity issues, and things started going bad quickly. But the Education Dept concerned ignored advice about the situation and just let it get horribly out of control, wasting years and years and more than $100 million along the way, for a project which looks likely to ultimately be scrapped.

        This is very far from being a standout project in state government IT at the moment. In fact, I’d say Ultranet is very representative. And that’s a terrible state of affairs.

        • Northern Blue
          Posted 09/01/2013 at 10:33 am | Permalink |

          It is a huge issue because it is known. Public Sector problems are more visible as Auditor-Generals, oppositions, and the media are keener to pursue stories in this environment. But in truth these disasters also occur in the private sector only, and this is a personal observations, the malignant projects seem to be identified earlier and curtailed quicker. The few of these I’ve managed to encounter go along the path of ‘demote or sack the decision maker(s) that made the wrong decision and the other decision makers in the organisation will try harder not to be similarly rewarded’.

          • tinman_au
            Posted 11/01/2013 at 11:56 am | Permalink |

            Agree entirely with this.

            I suspect that this is the real reason contracts get done with “commercial in confidence” so often now days, if they knew they’d be on time, on budget and correct, they’d be plastering it in ads all over like companies used to do…

    4. Mike
      Posted 11/01/2013 at 9:48 am | Permalink |

      Speaking of State Government IT, where has HEALTHSMART gone? Current Victorian Government abanded the project last year, that is, it’s been renamed Health Shared Services and still running… ;-)




    Get our 'Best of the Week' newsletter on Fridays

    Just the most important stories, one email a week.

    Email address:


  • Most Popular Content

  • Enterprise IT stories

    • Super funds close to dumping $250m IT revamp facepalm2

      If you have even a skin deep awareness of the structure of Australia’s superannuation industry, you’ll be aware that much of the underlying infrastructure used by many of the nation’s major funds — AustralianSuper, CBus, HESTA and more — is provided by a centralised group, Superpartners. One of the group’s main projects in recent years has been to dramatically update and modernise its IT platform — its version of a core banking platform overhaul. Unfortunately, as was revealed in November, the $250 million project has not precisely been going well, and the Financial Review last week reported that Superpartners is actually close to turfing it altogether and going back to the drawing board.

    • Qld’s Grant joins analyst firm IBRS peter-grant

      This week it emerged that Peter Grant, the two-time former Queensland Whole of Government CIO (pictured), has joined well-regarded analyst firm Intelligent Business Research Services (IBRS). We’ve long had a high regard for IBRS, and so it’s fantastic to see such an experienced executive join its ranks.

    • Westpac dumps desk phones for Samsung Android mobiles samsung-galaxy-ace-3

      The era of troublesome desk phones tied to physical locations is gradually coming to an end in many workplaces, with mobile phones becoming increasingly popular as organisations’ main method of voice telecommunications. But some groups are more advanced than others when it comes to adoption of the trend. One of those is Westpac.

    • Ministers’ cloud approval lasted just a year reverse

      Remember how twelve months ago, the Federal Government released a new cloud computing security and privacy directive which required departments and agencies to explicitly acquire the approval of the Attorney-General and the relevant portfolio minister before government data containing private information could be stored in offshore facilities? Remember how the policy was strongly criticised by Microsoft, Government CIOs and Delimiter? Well, it looks like the policy is about to be reversed.

    • WA Govt can’t fund school IT upgrades oops key

      In news from The Department of Disturbing Facts, iTNews revealed late last week that Western Australia’s Department of Education has run out of money halfway through the deployment of new fundamental IT infrastructure to the state’s schools.

    • Turnbull outlines Govt ICT vision turnbull-5

      Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull has published an extensive article arguing that the Federal Government needed to do a better job of connecting with Australians via digital channels and that public sector IT projects needn’t cost the huge amounts that some have in the past.

    • NZ Govt pushes hard into cloud zealand

      New Zealand’s national Government announced a whole of government contract this morning for what it terms ‘Office Productivity as a Service’ services. This includes email and calendaring services, as well as file-sharing, mobility, instant messaging and collaboration services. The contract complements two existing contracts — Desktop as a Service and Enterprise Content Management as a Service.

    • CommBank reveals Harte’s replacement whiteing

      The Commonwealth Bank of Australia has promoted an internal executive who joined the bank in September after a lengthy career at petroleum giant VP and IT services group Accenture to replace its outgoing chief information officer Michael Harte, who announced in early May that he would leave the bank.

    • Jeff Smith quits Suncorp for IBM jeffsmith4

      Second-tier Australian bank and financial services group Suncorp today announced that its long-serving top technology executive Jeff Smith would leave to take up a senior role with IBM in the United States, in an announcement which marks the end of an era for the nation’s banking IT sector.

    • Small business missing the mobile, social, cloud revolution iphone-stock

      Most companies that live and breathe the online revolution are not tech startups, but smart smaller firms that use online tools to run their core business better: to cut costs, reach customers and suppliers, innovate and get more control. Many others, however, are falling behind, according to a new Grattan Institute discussion paper.

  • Blog, Enterprise IT - Jul 5, 2014 13:53 - 0 Comments

    Super funds close to dumping $250m IT revamp

    More In Enterprise IT


    Blog, Telecommunications - Jul 5, 2014 12:12 - 0 Comments

    What should the ACCC’s role be in guiding infrastructure spending?

    More In Telecommunications


    Analysis, Industry, Internet - Jun 23, 2014 10:33 - 0 Comments

    ‘Google Schmoogle’ – how Yellow Pages got it so wrong

    More In Industry


    Blog, Digital Rights - Jun 30, 2014 22:24 - 0 Comments

    Will Netflix launch in Australia, or not?

    More In Digital Rights