IT unit survives WA Justice dept split

Western Australia's Department of Justice (DoJ) may have split into two separate divisions back in February, but the group's IT unit has come through the process intact. That IT function serving both the new Departments of Corrective Services and the Attorney-General will come to be known as the Shared Information Services Directorate, with its current chieftain Bob Berg remaining in the director's chair.

Western Australia's Department of Justice (DoJ) may have split into two separate divisions back in February, but the group's IT unit has come through the process intact.

That IT function serving both the new Departments of Corrective Services and the Attorney-General will come to be known as the Shared Information Services Directorate, with its current chieftain Bob Berg remaining in the director's chair.

"I'll report to both CEOs, and run a shared service," Berg told ZDNet Australia this week by telephone.

Berg said a number of arrangements had been put in place to ensure cost and risk minimisation under the new system.

For example, all IT assets will be owned by the Attorney-General's department, avoiding the problem of needing to buy additional enterprise-class software licences for the added department.

Although the two departments will continue to use the same hardware infrastructure, Berg's staff will use technology such as Microsoft's Active Directory software and virtualisation tools to keep the data owned by each secure and separate.

"We're leveraging all that stuff to give people the logical feeling they're separate, while physically it's none of their business," said Berg.

Only one set of IT standards guidelines will be maintained, in addition to one set of usage policies for computer and telecommunications assets, although the actual application of the usage policies may vary from area to area.

"One department may choose to say: I want all my staff to have the Internet, and the other one may say nobody gets access," said Berg. "But that doesn't change the way the actual policy's framed."

While Berg said each department had discretion in terms of how their money was spent, the IT unit will still be in charge of technical decision-making.

"How they build it, who they build it with, what technologies they use and the actual protocols they have to follow for the integration is still my responsibility," said Berg.

Salary money for the IT staff will be split -- with some coming from each department.

Support from the top
Buy-in and support from the two departments' top-level management teams is key to the success of the shared IT unit.

"Both CEOs are committed to the whole sharing thing," said Berg. "They both are convinced and are happy with the degree to which the environment has been shown to be able to be protected."

Part of that confidence comes from the IT unit's previous success in keeping different parts of the old DoJ apart from each other.

"We also [always have] look after people like the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, the State Solicitor's Office, and parliamentary counsel," said Berg.

"Now those three in particular have always been extraordinarily paranoid about the need to be separate and appear to be separate." In addition, judiciary representatives have always been nervous about having to broadly share IT systems with state prisoners.

But Berg is confident of the success of the shared model, "because the CEOs aren't paranoid, and they're both very supportive of achieving it this way".

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