DFAT's apps get facelift

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has embarked on a series of initiatives surrounding the modernisation and development of its enterprise applications. The department -- which has some 3,400 staff -- is Australia's public face to the world, and maintains far-flung offices in many countries around the globe, as well as significant resources locally.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has embarked on a series of initiatives surrounding the modernisation and development of its enterprise applications.

The department -- which has some 3,400 staff -- is Australia's public face to the world, and maintains far-flung offices in many countries around the globe, as well as significant resources locally.

One of DFAT's first tasks will be an upgrade of its legacy PeopleSoft human resources management system. Although Oracle has continued to release new versions of PeopleSoft since its acquisition of the rival vendor in 2005 (the current release is 9.0), DFAT is lagging behind at version 7.0, which came out in 1997.

DFAT will in August bring in external consultants to help it move to version 8.9 of PeopleSoft, according to tender documents released last week. The move will see DFAT focus on using standard features of the software, rather than adding its own customisations as it has done over the years.

Another job on DFAT's plate will be the development of a new Consular Assistance Information System (CAIS), a platform to be accessed by more than 130 of Australia's overseas embassies and consular posts. DFAT has outsourced the work to local systems integrator UXC, in a seven-year, AU$5.9 million deal announced in late March.

"The CAIS solution is part of a major redevelopment of DFAT's consular business systems," a statement by UXC issued this morning to the Australian Stock Exchange said.

The Microsoft-based solution will eventually provide improved information access between DFAT's remote arms, for example, better online registration of Australian travellers, case and crisis management, issue of travel advice, knowledge management capability, and data exchange with a range of other systems.

"The solution will also provide a central coordination cross agency hub (portal) for all activities related to management of international crises and a central knowledge base for all documents relevant to DFAT embassies and consular posts," UXC's statement said.

DFAT will also soon establish relationships with a number of vendors from which it will contract support services in addition to ad-hoc "major packages of work" relating to its SAP-based finance, Stellent-based intranet and PeopleSoft-based HR systems.

In general, the department is looking to simplify and enhance its support arrangements while upgrading some applications. For example, DFAT is looking at options for changing the level to which those functions are supported externally, as well as reducing the number of separate suppliers it deals with.

The department is looking at myriad ways to simplify processes. One option being considered, for example, is reducing the number of external IT suppliers.

DFAT is also known to be currently engaged in several other major technology initiatives, including a wide-ranging review of the effectiveness of its ICT division, in addition to a re-development of its international telephony network.

The department's IT function is headed up by chief information officer Sam Gerovich.

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