Q&A ZDNet.com.au talks to Brian Roche, executive director of the troubled shared services unit within Western Australia's Department of Treasury and Finance.
(Credit: WA Office
of Shared Services)
The state initiated the predominantly Oracle-based project in 2003 to consolidate financial, procurement and HR back-office functions from agencies to three shared services centres, with the aim of shaving some $55 million off its annual $315 million corporate services bill.
However, the timeline was not achieved and costs rose to over $400 million. After a damning report by the Western Australian auditor-general in mid-2007, a new plan was developed, scheduling the completion of the project in 2013.
Western Australian Treasurer Troy Buswell threatened to roll back the project, but gave it a new lease of life late last year on the condition that budget targets and implementation milestones be met.
Roche is the executive director of DTF Shared Services, which oversees the non-health and education portions of the shared services initiative.
What are your aims for the next six to 12 months within the shared services project?
The major focus will be to:
- Achieve the roll-in of agencies and progress other projects such as the build of the various payroll awards required to roll-in agencies as per the time frames outlined in the integrated project plan.
- Complete projects on time and within budget.
What would you consider to be a best-case scenario for that time period?
See response to question one.
Delays in rolling in agencies as per the time frames outlined in the Integrated Plan and not meeting project budgets.
Is this project the most ambitious you have worked on? What do you feel you yourself have contributed since becoming executive director?
I have ensured a strategic and operational planning process is in place to provide clear direction to ensure everyone is focused on the basic deliverables. I have improved the project management focus and have ensured an integrated project plan was established to improve integration between the various work streams and drives informed decision-making.
What have you learned?
Too many things to outline, but foremost has been the value of having commitment from senior leaders (such as the Under Treasurer) to assist in driving the reform program.
The Auditor General's report from a while ago was concerned about project management weakness. Are you satisfied that the management has become stronger since that time?
Yes, there have been a large number of remedial actions taken since that time to improve project management and strengthen the overall program.
Are the goals in the extended plan realistic?
Turnover of skills was previously a problem. Have the current financial conditions changed that? If not, what have you done to combat it?
Recruiting appropriately skilled staff in a number of areas remains a challenge for the program, but we are proactively managing this issue.
Has the delay in the project resulted in any contract penalties for Oracle? How helpful has the company been when problems have been encountered along the way?
There is a contract in place with Oracle for the business system software and for the build of the remaining payroll awards.
The contents of that contract are confidential but we continue to work with Oracle to ensure we meet the milestones outlined in the integrated project plan.
Has ASG's service been satisfactory?
Have you found a process that eases the removal of workarounds? How do you deal with complaints from agencies who have had to deal with slow roll-ins and workarounds?
A significant number of workarounds were rectified in the second half of 2008. There is in place an ongoing improvement project focused on rectifying defects and improving the functionality of the system in order to minimise workarounds.
Complaints from agencies are dealt with in accordance with procedures detailed in Service Level Agreements entered into with each agency.
Agencies were informed of their revised scheduled roll-in dates and no complaints have been made regarding these dates.
What KPIs are you using to measure progress now?
There are governance arrangements in place to drive the program and to monitor performance.
Regular reporting on the status of individual projects against project time frames and budgets is provided to the Shared Services Governance Council.
Regular reports on key performance data related to the operations of the various processes undertaken by the Shared Services Centre (procure to pay: timeliness of payments, use of purchase orders) is provided to both the Shared Services Governance Council and Client Management Council.
Did you agree with the Quadrant report that continuing with the totally Oracle solution and not resorting to the Talent2 solution was the way to go?
That report said that there was no contingency for unforeseen events in the project. Have there been changes to alter that?
The Quadrant Report pointed out that the plan currently allocates a similar time to all equivalent roll-in projects in the future. The report acknowledged that there is a reasonable expectation these roll-in activities will take less time as experience is gained, thus creating contingency later in the schedule.
If you could go back in time, would you still recommend that the government start the project?
Yes, although the project has suffered from significant cost and time delays, the reform will still deliver a number of long-term financial and non-financial benefits to the Government of Western Australia.