blog From the NSW Opposition this morning comes news that it will to create a new centralised IT decision-making body to oversee technology projects and purchasing across the state government, following the upcoming election (which the Opposition is expected to win in a landslide): Writes The Australian:
“NSW opposition financial management spokesman Greg Pearce said the group would comprise key ministers and government executives that provided long-term strategy oversight and monitoring of delivery of major ICT projects, in consultation with IT players.”
My initial reaction to the move is positive. Centralising the governance of technology spend and oversight of major projects is pretty much a no brainer for any government. There are always cost savings to be garnered from signing whole of government purchasing deals with companies like Microsoft, and it’s critically important for the public sector, which has had so many botched IT projects, to make sure large overhauls are kept on track.
We’ve seen good examples in South Australia and in the Federal Government of how centralised IT decision-making bodies can really aid in achieving reform across departments and agencies.
However, in NSW’s case, we have to keep a few things in mind.
Firstly, the State Government already has several peak IT strategy groups … there’s the office of the state CIO, which was recently integrated into the Department of Technology, Services and Administration and had been overseeing the apparently successful People First strategy … as well as the CIO Executive Council, which is made up of tech chiefs from the major departments.
And that’s not even going into any discussion of where the real power in technology projects and purchasing lies in the State Government; with the powerful and largely independent CIOs of the major departments themselves. You wouldn’t expect the CIO of the immense NSW Department of Education and Training to pay that much attention to overarching strategy groups — they report to their own department first, after all.
Thus, the Opposition’s new plan makes all the right noises, but will largely come down to execution rather than ideas. There is tremendous scope to clean up the way the NSW Government does technology. But there is a long and hard road ahead for anybody who wants to embark on that effort; the Opposition will need a series of internal champions (probably new appointments) and strong support from the departmental secretaries as well if it wants to get anywhere.