$24.8 million more needed for new Immigration NZ platform

A shift to infrastructure as a service (IaaS) among other changes sees project costs increase as signs of slippage emerge in release schedule.
Written by Rob O'Neill, Contributor

The estimated final cost of building Immigration New Zealand’s new ICT platform has grown from NZ$80 million to $91.5 million.

An additional $13.3 million is also earmarked to be spent on other requirements not within the original project scope, a spokesman said.

Immigration NZ's new platform will allow visa applications to be completed online. Photo: K. J. Keith, Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand,

However, Immigration NZ insists the project as originally scoped remains on track despite reporting (pdf) to Parliament that it is due for completion at the end of 2017 when it was originally scheduled to be finished at the end of 2015.

“Immigration New Zealand (INZ) remains on track to deliver the majority of IGMS functionality, including those elements that form the new user experience, by 2015 as outlined in the original business case,” the spokesman said.

“Further, the core capability remains on track to be delivered within the originally approved budget.”

Functionality not central to a quicker and easier user experience, such as retiring legacy systems, will be completed by the end of 2016.

Core functionality represents “the bulk of IGMS”, including online visa applications, identity management, IGMS triage (the applicant risk and value evaluation system), access by approved third parties, assess and decide applications, and foreign criminal alert.  

The first stage of IGMS, Visa Options Check, was delivered in May.

However, there has been a delay to the next release which would allow international students to apply for visas online. This is now due to go live in the first half of 2014 rather than in late 2013 as planned.

“This timing change from late-2013 is due to additional development time needed to meet security and privacy requirements and to test the form with groups such as students and education agents,” Immigration NZ said.

“This delay will inform estimates of rollout timings for other stages. However, key functionality will be live at the end of 2015, including online processing, the use of electronic documents, automation of simple tasks and significant improvements in identity management.”

The 2017 date given to Parliament refers to the transitional period when the project moves to business as usual and closes out, the Ministry said.

Immigration NZ said it has drawn on lessons learned from projects such as the failed schools payroll project, Novopay, and adopted best practice to what it describes as a “large and complex ICT-enabled business transformation project”.

This involves a progressive build and deployment, rather than a ‘big bang’ release. 

In the build-up to each release, there is a “stage gate” where progress, costs and timeframes are reviewed to inform future investment decisions, Immigration NZ said.

Two adjustments were made to the original budget. One was to allow a shift to infrastructure as a service (IaaS) instead of purchasing hardware. The other was to deliver a new Government requirement for multi-lingual visa application forms. 

These required the IGMS capital expenditure budget to be increased to $91.5 million.

However, the stage gate process has identified $13.3 million more to be invested in developments Immigration NZ said were outside the original IGMS project scope.

These relate to privacy and security requirements; enhancing the system’s infrastructure; meeting obligations to international immigration partners; and biometric licensing. 

These will be funded from within MBIE’s budget and will be subject to individual business cases. 

Datacom, which was appointed prime contractor on the IGMS project last May, referred ZDNet’s enquiries to the Ministry. 

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