The Australian Taxation Office has pushed back the completion date for its $724 million IT Change Program by 18 months in order to comply with new government requirements and allow more bedding down time for major updates.
ATO CIO Bill Gibson
The agency was due to complete the third stage of the Change Program by the end of this year. But the ATO's chief information officer and acting second commissioner Bill Gibson told ZDNet.com.au today that the technology components making up this stage, dubbed Release 3, would now be implemented in stages by July 2010.
Gibson said the government's scheme to simplify Superannuation and its First Home Saver program were examples of government policy that have required the ATO to update its schedule.
"We had a plan which had our Release 1, Release 2 and Release 3 mapped out nicely, but when you overlay on that these other major new requirements, things had to move around," he said, noting some of the new requirements had to take priority due to legislative requirements.
"There's a number of things that have slipped, but not by much. A number of things we've chosen to displace to another time, because we had to choose: of these functions, which had the highest priority, and when is it the right time to put it in to the community."
Gibson said the ATO was also constrained as to what periods it could undertake major Change Program work due to certain busy operational periods of the year. For example, the majority of Australians filed their income tax during the third quarter from July.
Another factor for rescheduling, according to Gibson, related to lessons learnt from the project so far. He said the ATO would now be aiming for intervals of six months between deployments of each major component of Release 3, to give each one time to be bedded down.
"I think some of our fellow agencies in Canberra are also moving to this frequency, because the rate of major change makes it too difficult to do it every three months," he said.
In conjunction with the changed timing, Gibson said the agency wanted to modify the terms in which it discussed the project.
"I don't really want to refer to it as a Change Program," he said. "Only in that it really is an ongoing change, a much broader thing, an agenda; we're branding it as a Change Agenda. This is trying to help people understand that change doesn't stop."
Citing the review recently completed by British efficiency expert Sir Peter Gershon into federal government use of technology, Gibson said the ATO was grappling with an accelerating pace of change, sometimes in completely new directions, particularly since Kevin Rudd's government had taken office.
Much of the work involved in Release 3 of the Change Program involves migrating existing processes into the ATO's new integrated core processing (ICP) platform.
For example, the Fringe Benefits Tax portion of the work was migrated onto the platform in March and April this year as an early test of the system, with major agency initiatives such as the personal Income Tax scheme, which is used by millions of Australians, will be deployed in January 2010.
IT services firm Accenture is the ATO's major partner for the Change Program work, although Capgemini also works with the agency from an assurance perspective.
Stay tuned for more coverage today from ZDNet.com.au's interview with the ATO.