The Department of Defence has characterised the risk involved in a $16 million upgrade to its ailing human resources platform PMKeyS as "low" and outlined how it plans to use the project to lay the foundation for a much wider overhaul.
On Tuesday, Defence revealed it had given existing partner Red Rock — which has been supporting PMKeyS since 2007 under a $10 million deal — the go ahead to upgrade the system, which is broadly responsible for civilian remuneration, although it also supports the armed forces somewhat.
The project will also involve the integration of the Central Reserve Pay System (CENRESPAYII) — the system at the centre of Defence's remuneration debacle in 2008, which saw some officers receive incorrect payments. In April 2009, a KPMG audit of those pay problems found that Defence's "ageing" computer systems were working well, but nonetheless were experiencing "vendor support issues".
A further separate system ADF Pay, which generates what Defence describes as the "allowance" component of the armed forces remuneration, is out of scope for the project.
"The level of risk is assessed as low," said a Defence spokesperson. "The underlying infrastructure and technology of the Technical Refresh is already proven and operational within Defence. Minimal business process reform is anticipated due to the highly technical nature of the refresh."
The spokesperson said the level of competition for the work was "within expectations", but declined to comment on which companies responded to the request for tender.
Defence spokespeople have been promising a substantial overhaul of the PMKeyS system for some time.
For example, in August 2009 Defence Minister John Faulkner publicly committed up to $500 million to HR technology reform in Defence, and in December 2008 Defence chief information officer Greg Farr flagged that the department would issue a request for tender of a similar size to overhaul PMKeyS and associated systems.
Asked directly about how this week's initiative related to this existing, much larger commitment, the spokesperson pointed to Defence's overall Strategic Reform Program and Defence Capability Plan, noting the wider HR technology reform planned was listed in the strategies as "JP2080 Phase 2B.1".
"The Personnel Systems Modernisation project has two main components; the Technical Refresh and JP2080 Phase 2B.1," they said.
"The PMKeyS Technical Refresh project will address the current technology risks associated with the PMKeyS and the Reserve Pay (CENRESPAYII) systems. The Technical Refresh will provide a stable technology platform on which to build the longer-term solution for personnel systems under the auspices of JP2080 Phase 2B.1."
"JP2080 Phase 2B.1 is included in the Defence Capability Plan and has a current year of decision scheduled for 2011-12. Initial operating capability is planned for 2012-14."