blog Long-time Delimiter readers (and I’m talking long, long-term — this issue dates back to mid-2011, only 18 months after Delimiter launched) — may recall that there was a great deal of controversy being raised in South Australia at that point about the performance of the state’s shared services scheme.
The state’s shared services initiative was announced in late 2006 as a project that would streamline and simplify corporate and business support services — such as finance, payroll and ICT functions — from individual agencies into one organisation, Shared Services SA. It’s an approach that has been followed by other state governments in Western Australia and Queensland, with very mixed results.
However, as happened in those other states, the initiative very quickly ran off the road, blowing out in cost and implementation time. The inevitable audit reports eventually followed. The net result is that last week Intermedium reported (we recommend you click here for the full article) that virtually no South Australian Government agencies are using the platform. Intermedium reports:
“A Department of Premier and Cabinet (DPC) spokesperson has told Intermedium that “Shared Services no longer provides ICT support to any Government agencies.” It will, however, “continue to provide centralised financial and payroll services across Government….””
I can’t say I’m surprised by this shift. Shared services-style agencies and programs have suffered continual problems in Australia over the past half-decade. The issues have led to some states shifting away from this model entirely, while others have heavily modified it.
Most of the issue is that, although they appear superficially similar, large government departments and agencies are different enough to make the provision of common services quite difficult. Add to that historically poor project governance structures, huge levels of bureaucracy and a slab of internal regulations, and you get a complex situation — often too complex for a shared services approach to work.
One would hope that the Federal Government will be closely examining the experiences that states such as South Australia, Queensland and Western Australia have had with shared services, before it commits to its own shared services approach. Because to rush in haphazardly would be dangerous indeed.