Uncertain future for NSW shared services

Uncertain future for NSW shared services

Summary: The NSW Government is currently questioning whether its shared-services organisations BusinessLink and ServiceFirst are delivering good services to government departments for the right price.

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The NSW Government is currently questioning whether its shared-services organisations BusinessLink and ServiceFirst are delivering good services to government departments for the right price.

"This year, we commenced investigations into the services provided by ServiceFirst and BusinessLink to assess whether they are providing quality services, and to look at ways to maximise their value," the NSW ICT minister, Greg Pearce, said in a statement to ZDNet Australia. This confirmed a report by the Australian Financial Review.

BusinessLink provides services to multiple NSW Government human services organisations, such as the Department of Community Services and the Department of Ageing, Disability and Home Care.

In last year's state budget, BusinessLink was allocated $65 million reserved for IT systems to improve shared services, deliver benefits for clients and align its processes with government reforms. It will also have $7.4 million set aside for IT systems for staff of those that support people with disabilities.

ServiceFirst was created in 2008, and now provides financial, HR, IT, office and Enterprise Project Management services to approximately 8000 staff in over 40 NSW Government agencies.

The Liberal NSW Government has also put on hold portions of work on the previous government's shared-services blueprint, which was introduced in July 2010 in the hopes of realising efficiencies in government IT provision by consolidating the number of IT shops providing departments with services.

The hope was to be able to provide eight of the 13 super agencies with services from one provider, while the more complicated agencies of health and education would be serviced separately.

The aim is to "provide sector-wide consistency and standardisation within the areas of corporate and shared services, while acknowledging the uniqueness and complexity of individual departments and the services they provide".

However, there are doubts that the plan would provide services in line with the government's vision.

"Last year, the government ceased some components of the previous government's corporate and shared-services reform program, and targeted resources towards those that drive real value to the government and taxpayers," Pearce said.

Shared services have not had an easy history in Australia. Western Australia canned its own shared-services program last year, and Queensland said that its "one-size-fits-all" approach wasn't working for all of its departments. Victoria's shared-services effort CenITex is still relatively new, having only begun in 2008, although it has had its own teething problems.

IT strategy

After the NSW Liberal Government came into power last year, it announced that it would be leaning on industry to release a new IT strategy for the state.

A panel, led by Deutsche Bank's head of information enterprise services John Baird, was to make sure that the industry's views were heard when the government created its strategy. This strategy is now on the cusp of being released, with Pearce's office saying that it would come out next month.

The Australian Financial Review was able to get its hands on some of the information in the strategy, which said that a pilot private government cloud is on the agenda for the next six to nine months, as well as a social media strategy. Pearce's office confirmed these details to ZDNet Australia.

Topics: Government, Government AU

Suzanne Tindal

About Suzanne Tindal

Suzanne Tindal cut her teeth at ZDNet.com.au as the site's telecommunications reporter, a role that saw her break some of the biggest stories associated with the National Broadband Network process. She then turned her attention to all matters in government and corporate ICT circles. Now she's taking on the whole gamut as news editor for the site.

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