blog Those of you who follow such matters will have no doubt noticed that the GovCMS platform which the Department of Finance locked in to place several years ago, based on the Drupal content management system, has been going rather well within the Federal Government. As the project’s underlying supporting vendor Acquia revealed this morning, Federal Government websites are being converted to the new standard platform in droves, and public servants are happy with its openness and levels of interoperability.
However, this happy situation has rubbed the Digital Transformation Office, which came along after the GovCMS platform was introduced, a little the wrong way. According to InnovationAus, there is now some form of ridiculous cold war going on between government CMS platforms, with the DTO on one side and the Department of Finance on the other. The outlet reports (we recommend you click here for the full article):
“While the DTO will build its own infrastructure – and had preferenced Drupal as its likely front-end into that system – it is understood to have been unhappy with the way Finance had constructed GovCMS. It was also concerned about the hooks that Finance’ technology partner Acquia had built into the platform might lead to a loss of control, and performance issues.”
Now, InnovationAus writer James Riley has had some harsh words to say about GovCMS, labelling it as somewhat of a disaster from the start. Riley is a smart and experienced guy, and so I believe him when he says there is an element of mismanagement about GovCMS.
However, I also happen to know that there were some pretty smart minds behind GovCMS — Federal Government CTO John Sheridan being one of its champions. And it also pays to remember that the GovCMS project came about during a period where the Federal Government wasn’t precisely favourable towards technology (can you say “Abbott”), and also during a period before the DTO, with its centralised IT platform wisdom, even existed.
In this sense, to my mind the GovCMS platform stands out as one of a very small number of cross-agency IT shared services/standardisation projects that have succeeded within the Federal Government.
The new kids on the block may do well to remember that the DTO has only been around for a very short period of time, and could easily be deleted again by a hostile Federal Cabinet during tough budget times. The folks who set up GovCMS paved the way for an agency like the DTO to do great things.
And it’s not usually wise within the public sector to criticise a project which — despite many challenges — is succeeding against the odds. Especially when the DTO itself hasn’t yet gotten anything like the scale of GovCMS across the finish line.