news The Queensland Government has cut its information technology workforce by about a quarter in just a year, the state’s Public Service Commission has revealed, in startling figures that come as the state is grappling with substantial problems with fundamental IT project and service delivery.
In June 2013, the state published its first comprehensive ICT Audit. That document reported that the total IT-related workforce within the Queensland State Government was around 5,670 total full-time equivalent roles. Most of those staff, according to the Audit, were engaged in the implementation and day to day operational support of applications and infrastructure. At that stage, contractors represented about nine percent of the total workforce, although the number of contractors had dropped by 42 percent since April 2012.
However, as first reported by iTNews (we recommend you click here for iTNews’ article), the state’s Public Service Commission recently published a document outlining the make-up of the state’s workforce. That document (available online in PDF format) highlighted the fact that only 4315 full-time equivalent IT roles existed within the Queensland Government as at the end of 2013, a reduction of about 24 percent over an 18 month period.
In a general sense the extremely wide-ranging cuts will not come as a surprise. The Queensland Government under the new LNP administration has made several very public statements regarding the need to cut large numbers of technology staff.
In July 2013, for example, it revealed plans to cut 430 IT staff from its chief technology office. In June 2013 one of the government’s main unions stated plans were afoot to axe some 2,000 IT staff, while in September 2012 the Government terminated the contracts of some 384 IT workers. Other cuts dated back to July 2012. However, as a sum percentage the number of staff which have been cut by the state is relatively unprecedented in the Australian public sector in terms of IT workers.
It seems likely that much of the cuts have come from operational areas, rather than areas where real differences in IT strategy could have a substantial impact on the Queensland Government’s IT operations.
The ICT audit found that ninety percent of the Queensland Government’s ICT systems were outdated and would require replacement within five years at a total cost of $7.4 billion, as Queensland continues to grapple with the catastrophic outcome of years of “chronic underfunding” into its dilapidated ICT infrastructure. And yet, the same audit also found that currently, only 2 percent of the state’s IT workforce were in roles that could “challenge the way government conducts its business”.
“The profile of the ICT workforce is currently not equipped to sufficiently promote or influence innovation,” the audit found. “Insufficient resourcing in the areas of architecture, business and ICT strategy and planning and business analysis will inhibit the speed at which significant change can be planned and implemented.”
Furthermore, the ICT Audit also flagged the need to employ a greater percentage of staff involved in IT security matters.
“Currently less than 5 percent of the reported ICT workforce specialise in the security and management of information,” it stated. “Understanding the nature of the Government’s information holdings will be important to successfully changing how business services can be
provisioned. There will need to be consistent and pragmatic approaches to developing and accessing the risk profile of government information holdings. This will enable appropriate information security controls to be applied, independent of specific technology security products and ICT solutions.”
“There is a responsibility at the whole-of-government level to set direction around ICT
provision and the subsequent reshaping of the ICT workforce,” it concluded. “Success with resizing and reshaping the ICT workforce rests with agencies and is dependent on the extent to which
each agency embraces innovation and alternative methods of ICT service provision. At present, ICT workforce resizing efforts are focused on ensuring the business continuity of in-house ICT services to ensure that there is no threat to business services.”
“Ongoing workforce planning by agencies is required to confirm the profile of the ICT
workforce in terms of size, skill, competency and utilisation of staff as well as define and
implement strategies to reshape the workforce.”
I don’t quite know what to make of the magnitude of cuts to IT staff by the Queensland Government detailed in this article. On the one hand, it’s apparent, as the ICT Audit noted, that many of these roles were in operational support — ‘keeping the lights on’ rather than moving the IT paradigm within the Queensland Government forward. It’s not surprising that a lot of these roles would be cut, and it’s clear that the Queensland Government had grown overweight in a variety of areas.
However, it’s also clear that the Queensland Government is struggling with fundamental IT project and service delivery at this point. The State is not going to be able to move its paradigm forward and modernise its IT infrastructure if it cuts too many IT staff. Is one quarter too much? Yes, yes I think it definitely is.
10 to 20 percent is a very large cut for any government in terms of its IT staff. When it gets above that (especially considering that many IT contractors were likely not included in these figures), things start to look ridiculous. 24 percent is just an incredible number. Imagine if one in every four staff was chopped from your IT workplace. Would things continue to function as before? No, not really. And in some cases, they may just fail completely.