Vic Govt claims early wins from ICT strategy



news The Victorian Government has published a list of accomplishments which it claims to have achieved off the back of its previous whole of government ICT strategy, as it releases a new vision for the 2014 and 2015 years.

In November 2011, Victoria’s Ombudsman handed down one of the most damning assessments of public sector IT project governance in Australia’s history, noting total cost over-runs of $1.44 billion, extensive delays and a general failure to actually deliver on stated aims in 10 major IT projects carried out by the state over the past half-decade. The report starkly displayed that the state government had an endemic problem with ICT project and service delivery.

As its first response to the report, in June 2012, Victoria appointed former South Australian whole of state government chief information officer Grantly Mailes, to lead a committee (VICTAC) to establish a new wide-ranging IT strategy to resolve Victoria’s ongoing problems with IT service and project delivery. It also appointed a high-level advisory committee led by Mailes which would provide advice on a new whole of government ICT strategy to rectify the ongoing problems. In February 2013, the state published the strategy.

From a high level perspective, the previous Victorian ICT strategy was a very similar document to the landmark ICT strategy released by the New South Wales Government in May 2012, containing similar aims across a broad swathe of areas and concrete deadlines for meeting those aims.

In a statement released today, Victorian Technology Minister Gordon Rich-Phillips issued a statement noting that the state had published a new ICT strategy for the 2014 and 2015 years (available online in PDF format), as well as a list of its top 10 achievements to date stemming from the previous strategy.

The top ten list (PDF) includes the fact that the State Government has commenced the transformation of its ICT shared services division CenITex; generated savings of $120 million by re-negotiating existing whole of government ICT contracts, including telecommunications and software
licensing contracts; released more than 2000 datasets to the public online at with
some data sets already developed into commercial applications; and commenced the VicConnect project to transform the purchase of government telecommunications and network services and to create a private government cloud and an open market for government departments to consume cloud-based services.

Rich-Phillips also noted that Victoria had launched the $12 million Victorian Government Technology Innovation Fund to support new technology projects and trials to improve government service delivery, with a strong pipeline of projects under assessment; conducted peer reviews of agency ICT strategies and ICT projects by the Chief Technology Advocate (CTA) and government chief information officers; updated Victoria’s web portal for better citizen access to information and to support further rationalisation of government websites; implemented the ‘High Value High Risk’ approach to review ICT-enabled major projects; developed the whole of government ICT Capability Framework to support ICT skills development across government; and implemented new whole-of-government ICT governance arrangements.

“Our first phase focused on foundational, whole-of-government ICT policies and processes, including the appointment of a Chief Technology Advocate,” Rich-Phillips said. “It is important that Victorians have easy access to accurate information and convenient government transactions, which is what we will deliver over the next 18 months.”
Rich-Phillips said the updated strategy would focus on high-impact priorities such as a public cloud framework, mobility technologies and greater community access to government datasets.

“The Coalition Government will continue to consult citizens and business in the development of government services using digital channels such as online and through mobile devices and applications,” Rich-Phillips said.

In terms of the new strategy, the Minister said the Government had committed to regular updates to the strategy to ensure it took advantage of opportunities arising from “the ever-evolving ICT industry”.

“The intention of this update is to continue to focus on technology to improve service delivery to Victorians and provide greater productivity across the Victorian Government in the face of rising demand for government services and tightened budgets,” Rich-Phillips said. According to Rich-Phillips’ statement, the new ICT Strategy’s top 10 goals are:

  • Completion of the Expression of Interest processes to deliver free Wi-Fi services in central Melbourne, Ballarat, Bendigo and aboard V/Line’s VLocity carriages operating between Melbourne and Ballarat, Bendigo, Geelong, Seymour and Traralgon
  • Completion of the outsourcing of shared ICT services provided by CenITex
  • Achieve further savings of $125 million from renegotiation of software contracts and refreshing state purchasing arrangements for desktops, laptops and tablets.
  • Implement a whole of Victorian Government infrastructure and services roadmap.
  • Appoint the VicConnect Manager and transition to the VicConnect network and ICT marketplace and commence a refresh of whole of government telecommunication contracts.
    Standardise key ICT systems and related business processes to improve the productivity of government.
  • Release more open, accessible and useful data for Victorians, such as additional transport data sets.
  • Develop and implement a Cloud Framework and associated guidelines to assist departments and agencies to take advantage of contemporary ICT.
  • Develop and implement Cyber Security Strategy to enhance protection of government systems and data.
  • Implement an ICT workforce development and education plan to improve innovation and risk management.

If you believe the hype emanating from Gordon Rich-Phillips’ office right now, everything’s going well in the Victorian Government with respect to implementing its whole of government ICT Strategy. Everything’s peachy, in fact — and Minister Rich-Phillips is responsible for steering the misguided ship back on track to where it belongs :)

Of course, there is some truth to this. Rich-Phillips has personally taken a great deal of responsibility for the state’s ICT woes, and he made a very wise move in commissioning former SA Government CIO Grantly Mailes to put together the Strategy, as well as appointing Mailes chief technology advocate. Progress is indeed being made on a range of fronts, including at the troubled CenITex organisation.

However, it’s also important to remember that Victoria is not on a one, two or even five year journey here. The 2011 Ombudsman’s report, as well as a series of other reports, have starkly demonstrated that the state’s fundamental ICT project and service delivery capability had broken down almost completely. To put it baldly, at a certain point, Victoria could not deliver major ICT projects, and it could not provide basic ICT services to its staff.

Things are improving, but they are still at a disastrous level. Recall that in February, Victoria Police laid part of the blame for an 11-year-old boy’s death at the time at the doorstep of its ailing IT systems, which failed to provide officers with sufficient information to apprehend an offender in a timely manner. And the next month, in March, the Victorian Auditor-General told the state’s Department of Human Services to treat the need for a better client information system to store details about children under its care as a “priority”, with revelations that the department’s existing system was difficult to use and not being used correctly, as well as the fact that staff are still using cumbersome fax-based technology to report abuse.

In both cases, the failure of critical Government IT put children in the state at risk.

What I’m pointing out here is that Victoria’s approach to dealing with its ICT service and project delivery challenges is going to be a decade-long journey. It will definitely need to outlive Rich-Phillips’ tenure as Technology Minister, and Mailes’ tenure as chief technology advocate. The challenge for this pair and others is to put in place a strategy and organisation that will continue to push for positive change in Victoria in a decade’s time — even after they have moved on to other roles.

We are just at the first start of this journey. Outsourcing CenITex’s core services alone — only one part of the strategy — is a gargantuan, five year effort to get right. And there are plenty more troublesome and complex tasks in Victoria where that one came from. Let’s not get too optimistic just yet.

Image credit: NBN Co


  1. Here is my ‘official’ and parenthetical comments:

    “The Victorian strategy is a good example of contemporary government IT strategy. It is well grounded in the realities of the fast changing technology landscape, rising expectations for rapid digital service innovation and an urgent need to modernise the way ICT is sourced, managed and delivered.”

    [The strategy covers all the right bases in terms of setting an agenda but there is still a big challenge ahead to put in place the capacity across agencies to sustainably execute against the strategy’s objectives].

    “Two new principles have been added in this update to strengthen policy preferences for public cloud services and mobile technologies in new and renewed systems.”


    “The update provides a clear, and pragmatic, set of directions for the Chief Technology Advocate’s newly formed whole-of-government ICT leadership team.”

    [It has taken quite a while to put the new leadership team in place, so they will need to get cracking. It is good that there is some fresh digital thinking in the team from outside the public sector but also good that an experienced government CIO is aboard – Grahame Coles – to keep things pragmatically focused on the delivery of policy initiatives that add value to the service delivery front line in agencies.]

    “The scope of the strategy, however, is quite broad and it will be challenging to mobilise this breadth of digital transformation across the many moving parts of the Victorian Public Service. Early resolution of the path forward for CenITex and VicConnect will be critical to create both a clean break from the past and a clear statement of the future for whole-of-government ICT procurement.”

    [CenITex, in particular, is a hairball that just needs to passed through the system or coughed up in order for everyone to move on to a better life …]

    “As well, early mobilisation and showcasing in agencies of projects that demonstrate the new ‘art of the possible’ of more agile, cloud service and mobile device enabled innovations will be important to rebuild executive confidence in ICT project delivery.”

    [As I always say (tiresomely) , “cloudy is as cloudy does”. The important thing now is to demonstrate how things can be done differently … better, faster, at less cost … and with less risk of failure. Seeing is believing is very much the reality of the whole-of-government landscape these days. The days of grand cunning plans are over … or at least the opportunity to put forward a grand plan only exists once credibility has been earned through successful project delivery.]

  2. My concern with the cloud is that it has serious risks of becoming a new set of information silos.

    Most cloud providers have a strong incentive towards getting data in, but place little thought on how data should be securely exposed and sync’ed to other systems.

    People can get away with moving services to the cloud only because, to be blunt, most organisations haven’t really worked to solve these silo problems in-house either.

    • Hi Stephen, you are exactly right on both counts! Cloud services CAN create information silos while we know that traditional on premise applications and outsourcing approaches definitely DO create information silos!

      It all comes down to how we choose to manage our information assets. There was a comment made by Nicole Engelbert at Ovum’s Industry Congress in London last week “A fool with a tool is still a fool”. Same applies to cloud services …

      The one thing that gives me hope however is the fact that the mature enterprise-grade cloud services are actually built using SOA and have robust API mechanisms which are provided in a fairly standardized manner. Some of the leading SaaS applications do more transaction volume through thier APIs than their web interfaces … so they are interoperable. They are better engineered for integration and interoperability than many in house applications – which have hard wired interfaces and proprietary or bespoke architectures than only operate within the dedicated ICT environment of an organizational perimeter.

      One can’t generalize of course, but at least the better cloud services do create the possibility of more seamless information flows between applications as part of an ecosystem. Whether this actually happens for an individual organization is purely dependent on how they choose to architect and manage their information assets and how they manage the inclusion of cloud services into their overall ICT portfolio.

      If we assume that highly competent and well resourced agencies will do a good job however they source their ICT capabilities, I suppose the question is “Will cloud services adoption improve or worsen information management in an average agency ICT environment?”

      My view is that cloud services are a better tool … but a fool with a tool is still a fool.

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