Is finding good shared services that hard?

I found it interesting that despite such a terrible start, the Western Australian Government has won an award for its shared services program.

I found it interesting that despite such a terrible start, the Western Australian Government has won an award for its shared services program.

This week, media were informed that the WA Department of Treasury and Finance had won an award in the "Excellence in People and Communication" category at the 14th annual Australasian Shared Services and Outsourcing Network conference in Melbourne.

I was pleased for the department, but I'd just like to remind you that this is the same shared services program that was ridiculously delayed and over-budget. After all, it started in 2003 with a budget of $91 million, but it still isn't finished and has cost many times the original figure. It was almost stopped by the government in 2008 following a particularly scathing auditor-general's report the year before.

It seemed that like the Victoria Police's LINK project, the government had underestimated the complexity of the project at hand.

Despite this terrible start, the Department of Treasury and Finance continued to plug away at its vision and seems to have done enough now to receive recognition of its efforts.

On receiving the award this week, the shared services business executive director Brian Roche pointed out that he should be given credit because the field included companies such as Rio Tinto, NAB and Qantas, and other government agencies.

I'd love to think of this as a story where a government agency triumphed over adversary, but in truth it makes me feel a little concerned about the state of these companies. After all, it was only at the end of last year that the Western Australian auditor-general was questioning whether forecasted savings for the project would ever be met.

Manual workarounds were apparently still in place at that point, which the auditor-general believed endangered the accuracy and security of the processing. Even though the shared services program told the auditor that it was going to remove the workarounds soon, it hasn't been the first time that an auditor has raised concerns. Back in 2008, an independent reviewer had raised concerns about workarounds.

In short, I don't doubt that shared services is in better shape than it was three years ago, but does it deserve an award for an effort that is still only slightly more than half-finished?

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