Tuesday, February 04, 2014

Shared Services for the Australian Government

Susan Monkley, Group Manager, Technology Solutions Group, Department of Education
Greetings form the Australian Computer Society Canberra meeting, where Susan Monkley, Group Manager, Technology Solutions Group, Department of Education is speaking on "Merging IT in government (and de-merging)". The Australian Government underwent significant changes, with mergers and de-mergers of departments, after the last election and a new government. But as Susan pointed put, this can happen at any time. She referred to them by what sounded like "moggs", but turned out to be "MoGs" (Machinery of Government changes). The Australian Public Service Commission has details of what happens with staff as well as more general advice during a MoG.

In IT terms Susan pointed out that previous MOGs  took about seven years for split agencies to completely separate their IT systems. Similarly mergers resulted in duplicated functions, until this could be rationalised. As Susan pointed out this is not just a matter of technical standards, but also work styles. Some changes are just too hard to make and agencies can have other agencies continue to run systems for them.

Susan pointed out it was not just a matter of transferring people from one agency’s system to another. Staff may need access to their old agency's systems for weeks or years after the change. Different security policies may impose large burdens on agencies when staff need to be cleared. She mentioned single sign-on as an aim for the future fpr all of government (at the start of my public service career several decades ago we used second hand equipment left over from ManData, a failed whole-of-government project).

Susan mentioned at the end of her talk that the newly demerged  Departments of Education and Employment will have a shared services centre to deliver services to both (not just ICT services). This is an interesting idea which could be expanded to other like agencies. However, as Susan pointed out when I asked about it, the temptation to expand this to agencies which have very different tasks should be avoided. The ACT Government has Shared Services for ICT, Human Resources and Finance. The Shared Services SA provides shared services for the South Australian Government, The APSC has some notes on shared services.
Susan will discuss the transformation journey of the Department of Education’s IT operations including the challenges specific to IT operations in federal government.
Machinery of Government changes significantly impact the operations of government business. Department’s may merge, new department’s may be created, and functions can be transferred from one agency to another. People working in government IT operations are impacted in two key ways. Firstly they have a significant role supporting business areas and people move between departments. Secondly, Machinery of Government changes sometimes result in significant changes to the size, structure, client base and nature of the IT operation. The Department of Education has recent experience of such a change and Susan will discuss the approaches and outcomes of managing transformational change.

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