Qld may ditch $1.2bn Health payroll project,
start again


blog Remember Queensland Health’s botched payroll systems overhaul? The project which was initially estimated to a relatively small initiative, but ballooned out in value to more than $1.2 billion and stil doesn’t quite work? The one which the Queensland Government is still considering suing contractor IBM over? The one IBM claimed it successfully delivered its promises on? Yeah. According to an article in the Courier Mail this morning, the new LNP administration in Queensland is considering ditching the whole thing and starting again. The newspaper reports (we recommend you click here for the full article):

“Health Minister Lawrence Springborg last night said despite attempts to fix it, ongoing problems were “serious enough to warrant having a close look at” junking it entirely.”

It’s hard to know what to make of this potential move by the Queensland Government. On the one hand, given that the new payroll platform still doesn’t really work and is going to cost hundreds of millions of dollars to remediate, it would certainly be an attractive option to ditch the whole plan and start again fresh. On the other hand, detailed reports such as this audit by KPMG have already outlined a comprehensive path forward for the payroll overhaul, and it’s hard to escape the feeling that starting fresh would quite likely lead to another disaster of epic proportions, four years down the track. Not exactly a set of enviable options.

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  1. From memory there are about 11,000 contract variations for 74,000 people. I’d suggest that few payroll systems could cope with this kind of variance.

    • That’s a matter of speccing the solution right in the first place. If the system needs to do that, you build a system that can do that.

      If they didn’t, that’s another point of #fail.

      • But isn’t it also encumbent on the institution offering the contract to review processes and identify where complexity can be removed? You can find more payroll systems to choose from if your pay structures are within reasonable common business standards.

        • Have you ever considered the range of expertise that is utilised in the whole of QLD Health? Have you considered the range of hours, Shift Workers and what 24/7/365 Health Care is? Now take that with a State the size of QLD and the good dash of a Population that is fairly spread out all over the place and it is big! So the Payroll system would have to be big enough to cope with such a diverse range of expertise, contracts, awards, modifications when a person calls in sick, but someone has to fill in for them as sick and dying won’t pause in the health matters because the Nurse is ill at home in bed.
          Unfortunately, there is no easy solution. Unless you are going to break it up into a thousand pieces and then that is just another complexity.
          But what your proposing it seems is exactly what I said would be tried, and I was called alarmist. See how predictable this all is becoming. :{)

          • Reviewing the award structures with a view to simplifying their coding into an award interpreter is hardly alarmists. It is just plain basic good IT planning. In fact payroll IT support should be/have been involved IN THE NEGOTIATIONS of awards. A simple “no that isn’t easy to do” would stop big problems later down the track.

            On power requirements, rather than centralising more you will find that they will more likely move back to a decentralised model. A single district’s payroll will not hold up the rest of the districts under that model. This again, is a simple load distribution strategy. The bonus here also is that the processing cycle of payroll (2x 10-5 hours currently) will be dramatically reduced. The data entry is back on-line a lot quicker.

  2. Oh I think we know what will happen. They will endeavor to revision the law to make the QLD Health contracts change to a few “simplified” outcomes which will disadvantage the Staff and the Public whilst also shifting all the work out to private Contractors under the guise of “Savings” and “Efficiency”. You can use the words, but it doesn’t always make it the truth. They won’t tell anyone that it will end up costing more in the long run (Private Companies don’t do services at cost, but want growing profits (see Capitalism) annually) and the costs of getting rid of the current Staff, unless they plan to implement Work Choices under some other name by force, where they can in State Law. With no Upper House to deal with, easy as! They’ll make sure the Contract will go to a “supporting” Corporation. Pork Barrel anyone?
    It is the sheer volume of different contracts and awards that create the complexity in the QLD Health Payroll. It is well known. There is no easy solution. It need raw variability and processing power to crunch through such huge amounts of data to calculate everyone’s proper correct remuneration.
    Of course we all can predict the spin and hyperbole that will gush from the mouths of the LNP as they try to placate the people of QLD who really don’t want their private details to given out to Private Corporate Interests, just on the LNP’s promise of utopia on a stick.

  3. Leaving all the potential for disadvantaging staff etc aside, the concept of standardising some of those 11000 contracts strikes me as a good thing.

    However even without that, I don’t understand how it can be quite so difficult, surely there are programatical ways of reducing the load. Either by reducing the pay runs into component parts(So Sectionalise each area down, and only process a section at a time) or something.

    I certainly sympathise with the idea of just starting again. But I don’t trust the government to do it correctly then either, and whilst I think TechinBris is being overly alarmist, I do agree with him somewhat.

    • I wasn’t being alarmist. It was written with the utter boredom of the fact how predictable Politicians have become. Especially LNP Politicians.

      • And on that fact, I wonder if Australians all started to “Predict” what they will do, they will do otherwise and thus become easy to herd into the direction we want?

        • Well one mans boredom is another mans alarmist, so its unlikely we’d all be able to agree on anything long enough to test the theory :-)

          • Whether we agree to do it or not, the fun part would be sowing the seeds of paranoia into the minds of the Pollies. Just that, would be worth it. They do it to us, we should repay the favor. :{)

    • “Leaving all the potential for disadvantaging staff etc aside, the concept of standardising some of those 11000 contracts”.

      With 74K employees and a billion dollar over-run, you’d think that you could standardise 11,000 contracts down to, say, ten contracts, make the ten contracts slightly generous, give every employee a $15K tax-free bonus to accept the standardisation and end up with a very simple ten-contract payroll system.

      Taking a one-time known cost-hit to end up with a simple system going forward seems like an easy and safe win….

      …or you can design an incredibly complex system that caters for an obviously run-away crazy set of contracts, that no-one will truly understand, that will be an on-going nightmare to maintain and live with huge costs forever.

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