ACT's InTACT makes big strides

ACT Government service provider InTACT is due to leap up the list of Australia's biggest ICT users with the addition of the capital's Department of Education and Training to its client list.

ACT Government service provider InTACT is due to leap up the list of Australia's biggest ICT users with the addition of the capital's Department of Education and Training to its client list, with about 10,000 desktops in schools and other locations to manage.

"There are really exciting things happening here, it's full on," says Mick Chisnall, acting general manager of the organisation now in its 10th year as insourcer of telephony and IT to ACT agencies.

"I describe ourselves now as the ICT department for the ACT Government. The model has a central piece and a dispersed piece, and that's a structure that I think is really going to serve us well."

The latest win has added about 10,000 desktops in schools and other locations.

Integration with the Education agency is one result of a process which began last October when ACT Chief Minister John Stanhope released a Functional Review of the ACT bureaucracy and subsequently announced a cost-cutting restructure. Chisnall says it is "still early days" for InTACT as it beds down the changes.

"We're still in the process of integrating Education. The strategy we have had is not to physically relocate staff, rather to leave agency-based staff in place.

"It's a distributed model but a single organisation model and it overcomes a lot of the barriers that traditionally we've had in an outsourcer model where the people in the agencies tend to be purchasers of services rather than deliverers of services."

As part of the restructure, InTACT lost its status as a semi-autonomous business unit to become part of a new Shared Services Division of ACT Treasury headed by former InTACT general manager Michael Vanderheide. This division provides procurement and business management services to ACT agencies, plus ICT services via InTACT which accounts for about half the new division's staff.

"InTACT will continue to provide ICT services, but from a management point of view it's now considered as an integral part of the new shared services organisation," says Chisnall.

"Any change requires a fair amount of selling, and I spent a lot of time last year doing that.

"I just had a bit of a whip around of the CEOs in the last couple of days and generally they are pretty supportive and happy with the changes."

InTACT has continued its introduction of IT Infrastructure Library processes associated with configuration and release management, with all staff receiving ITIL training. "It has informed our process redevelopment, our service desk approach, and our incident problem management procedures," Chisnall said.

The rollout of IP telephony to ACT agencies, a project involving local telco TransACT and Dimension Data, has now reached about 10,000 terminals, making it one of the biggest VoIP implementations in the southern hemisphere.

Chisnall says it is close to completion but "its not something that you ever finish, it's a bit like painting the Sydney Harbour Bridge".

A "very significant effort" is also going in to installing Windows XP on all desktops by mid 2007, a project that has yet to reach the halfway point.

"The actual implementation of XP is a relatively straightforward exercise," Chisnall said. "The real work is associated with verification of thousands of applications working at desktop level."

Other ongoing projects include the deployment by ACT Health of a new patient administration system based on an iSoft patient database product, and introduction of a new service desk tool.

Chisnall says the ACT Health deployment faces challenges which are less technological and more about cultural change and training issues.

The service desk tool project is the evolution of a longstanding relationship with Marvel, and has resulted in a system that links all InTACT users to one database which includes a configuration management database.

"All of the equipment, all of the software and all of the configuration items that go to make up the total network find their way into a single database which has ubiquity of access to it," said Chisnall, who hopes to make his new job a permanent appointment.

"I will certainly apply for it, I'm enjoying the role."