news The New South Wales State Government has released a public policy document which it intends will help NSW Government agencies make better investment and strategic planning decisions in ICT.
“The NSW Government needs to create the right environment for more coordinated ICT investment and the ICT Investment Policy and Guidelines delivers a new strategic approach for government agencies,” NSW Minister for Finance and Services Andrew Constance said in a statement announcing the policy, which can be downloaded online in PDF format.
“It embraces a whole-of-government process to make sure agencies take full advantage of industry trends in consuming ICT ‘as a service’ or cloud-based delivery models for better value, flexibility and reliability. The framework is designed to minimise duplication and support common approaches that promote efficiencies across government. Importantly, the ICT Investment Policy and Guidelines will help ensure government-held information is managed in a consistent way to deliver better services to the community.”
Constance said the NSW ICT Strategy set out a plan to build capability across the sector to deliver better, more customer-focused services, and to drive better value from a $2 billion annual investment in ICT.
“This approach to ICT investment will enable agencies to leverage existing solutions, consolidate investment and support opportunities for modern ICT investment,” the Minister said. “It will identify opportunities to deliver more efficient and effective ICT investment through early consideration of different sourcing strategies.”
“The NSW Government will increasingly look to standardise the services we offer. The Service NSW portal ‘one stop shop’ is just one example of how we are providing residents and businesses with better access to a range of government services.”
The policy outlines a series of steps which NSW Government agencies and clusters are to take when considering new ICT investment, with four oversight groups involved in making the ultimate decisions about the process.
Initially, it appears as though much of the evaluation of new IT projects will be carried out by chief information themselves, in the form of the ICT Leadership Group composed mainly of departmental CIOs.
“The ICT Leadership Group will discuss ICT investments early in the strategic planning and investment process to advise clusters, agencies and the ICT Board on application of the investment principles and opportunities for consolidation, collaboration, reuse and ‘as a service’,” the policy states.
It appears that once proposals reach a higher level, the NSW Treasury as well as the ICT Board (composed mainly of departmental secretaries) will get involved in the process, examining formal business cases and advising about alignment of specific ICT projects with the NSW Government’s wider ICT Strategy. The final step will be the submission of business cases to the Cabinet Standing Committee on Expenditure Review, alongside Treasury assessment of these proposals.
In addition to this process, it appears that the process places certain specific guidelines around the constitution of ICT business cases. Notably, the policy mentions that all NSW Government ICT investment decisions must demonstrate the application of the following principles:
Compliance with relevant whole of government ICT policies and standards, including Information Management, Data Centre Reform, Corporate and Shared Services Reform and Information Security; the consideration of “as a service” sourcing models”; the consideration of online access and data sharing; a focus on collaboration and re-use; the demonstration of standardisation and interoperability; and the demonstration to better value to government and citizens over the life of the investment.
The news comes as the NSW, Victorian and Queensland State Governments are all taking steps to remediate their approach to IT project and service delivery in the wake of a number of comprehensive failures in the area over the past several years.
I think seasoned observers of the NSW State Government’s IT project and service delivery decision-making process will agree that this policy released by Constance this morning is more of an evolution of an existing structure, rather than a completely new approach. The NSW State Government, after all, has had central CIO councils, departmental secretary councils, Treasury approval of major projects and Cabinet sub-divisions to deal with specific areas for up to a decade now. You can see that decision-making process at work in this article published back in 2006.
Having said that, I think what we are seeing from Constance is a formalisation of that process, and a recognition that a great deal of mistakes can be prevented in government IT project and service delivery if CIOs themselves are given a significantly greater ability to collaborate directly with their peers and give those peers direct feedback about their projects.
This is the role we’re seeing evolving in Victoria with the new chief technology advocate office, and we’re also starting to see it here in NSW. The general idea is that as a group, CIOs display a great deal of wisdom about technology investment, even if individual CIOs or departments may not. It seems as though the Government wants to halt future IT disasters at the CIO council/ICT Leadership Group level.
And that’s a great thing. It’s important at this stage of the enterprise IT lifecycle (which, remember, is only a few decades old) to acknowledge that there are very much standard ways of doing things — ways that work. I think this formalised process around giving a lot of responsibility to the NSW Government CIOs as a group is a good thing. It will be interesting to see how well the group deals with major incoming IT projects over the next few years.
I also welcome to explicit focus (which we’re seeing continually from the NSW Government) on cloud computing options first, rather than as an afterthought. That top-level leadership is going to be very important if the state, like Victoria and Queensland, is going to use cloud computing techniques to ‘leapfrog’ its current IT project service delivery challenges.