NSW publishes shared services blueprint


The New South Wales State Government has published a complex blueprint that will inform its future shared services strategy — including the provision of ICT services.

The way the state purchases technology goods and services has become a complicated animal over the past half-decade. Most agencies still approach the market directly for some purchasing initiatives.

However the establishment of the state’s CIO Executive Council — which is made up chief information officers from 19 of the largest Government agencies, as well as the creation of the office of the Government Chief Information Office led by whole of government CIO Emmanuel Rodriguez — has meant that much centralisation has occurred.

In addition, the state has consolidated some responsibilities for IT shared services into the Department of Technology Services and Administration, formed from the old Department of Commerce with some restructuring.

The blueprint (PDF), which was put together by the state’s Department of Premier and Cabinet in association with consulting firms Third Horizon and the Hackett Group, outlines the state’s vision for five in-house shared services providers and one multi-tenanted provider, “all supported by a single ICT wholesale operator”.

Citing the Queensland Government’s troubled shared services operation and other structures used by the Australian Defence Force, the UK Government and so on, the document states that it is “realistic” to expect that as few as three shared services providers could operate within the state government, each servicing up to 100,000 staff.

“However, a preliminary target of 20,000 full-time equivalent [staff] has been determined to be a practical, implementable target to achieve initial critical mass/scale,” the document states.

Queensland has broadly abandoned its centralised IT shared services model as its exclusive structure for delivering IT services in the wake of the Queensland Health payroll disaster and damaging revelations of widespread problems in associated programs.

The NSW blueprint outlines a wide range of different approaches to the provision of services that could be taken by different departments, and it does not proscribe a ‘one-size fits all’ approach.

Peter Carr, the managing director of research house Longhaus, described the blueprint as “ambitious” but noted it was problematic and subject to great exposure with a change in leadership — especially when it came to the ‘clusters’ of agencies receiving services.

“Politicians change clusters the way CEOs change marketing segments,” he said by email today.

The Queensland-based analyst described NSW’s decision to use its sister state’s initiative as an example as very brave. “You can’t pick on the “best bits” of somebody else’s effort. You need to look at the whole and on the whole the Queensland model has not been a shining success,” Carr said.

The analyst said the biggest positive in the blueprint was its statement that it did not specific solutions or plans for each department. “If the NSW government can truly embrace this kind of natural shared-services model, for example where an existing system (like licensing) is made extensible to other agencies, then that will be a winner for the government – but that is called cloud computing,” he said.

“I think there would be real merrit in that kind of mental shift away from shared services where it is not the “application” that is central to the model but the “utility” or “platform”. The industry would have
been well-enthused by a NSW Government Cloud BluePrint rather than a shared services model where realistically you have to scratch around in foreign lands to find a true success.”

Image credit: Dane Munro, royalty free