​Australian government still pushing provider panels with new ERP tender

After announcing the first 10 players for the whole-of-government govCMS Drupal Services Panel, the government has gone to tender for a new ERP Software Panel.
Written by Asha Barbaschow, Contributor

The Australian Department of Finance has published a request for proposal (RFP) to establish a whole-of-government panel to provide agencies and departments with off-the-shelf ERP software-as-a-service (SaaS) and related services.

With funding made available to Finance under the Public Service Modernisation Fund, the services required by the resulting panel will include the supply of scalable commercial off-the-shelf ERP software provided as a SaaS solution; planning, design, and implementation of the ERP solution; and ongoing support, maintenance, and development for the ERP solution.

The RFP follows the announcement Finance made on Tuesday, when it revealed its whole-of-government govCMS Drupal Services Panel, with 10 players initially given the tick of approval to provide government agencies with open-source Drupal services.

The panel, comprised initially of Bliss Media, Catalyst IT Australia, PreviousNext, Adelphi Digital Consulting Group, Cogent Business Solutions, Digital Gardens, Loud & Clear Creative, Ice Media, OPC IT, and Acquia Inc, can also be used by agencies to help them build, maintain, and support other Drupal websites that are not hosted by govCMS.

Two categories of services can be procured from the panel: Category one is for services based on specific skill sets, available at hourly and daily maximum rates, for works in areas such as quality assurance, solution design and technical architecture advisory, integration, and build and migration services.

The second category is for services based on fixed-price packages, which Finance said guarantees a minimum specific scope. Services available in this category include: Website assessments and advisory services, content migration and consolidation, and site audits and technical reviews.

Finance issued a request for tender for the new panel last December, and it will be operational until June 30, 2019, with two optional 12-month extensions also available.

The govCMS platform is an initiative under Finance, built around the principle "create once, use often" in a bid to simplify government IT and eliminate duplicated, fragmented, and sub-scale activities across agencies.

According to the federal government, using the Drupal open-source CMS helps people across government at all levels come together to share any new features created to support their respective sites.

Just over three years ago, govCMS inked a AU$24 million, four-year deal with Massachusetts-based SaaS provider and panel member Acquia to implement the whole-of-government platform.

Finance also manages the whole-of-government Telecommunications Services Panel and the Cloud Services Panel.

Assistant Minister for Digital Transformation Angus Taylor told journalists back in March that the "big bureaucratic beast" known as the Australian government was going to change the way it procures products and services, and would start ridding its innovation-stifling service provider panels.

At the time, Taylor criticised the procurement method currently in place for lower-cost government projects, highlighting that the panel process has been a big barrier to smaller, innovative companies getting access to government opportunities.

"Panels are a really good example of well-intentioned policy leading to less than ideal outcomes," he said.

The assistant minister explained that often panels are being used by government for projects that lie within the AU$80,000 to AU$5 million bracket, as they have previously not been large enough to require a customised solution, or large enough that provider selection warrants intervention from government.

Taylor explained that this spend bracket is also the sweet spot for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), as generally the projects can be turned around quickly, and allow for a single technology solution to a problem that is reasonably digestible.

Last month, the government capped IT contracts at a maximum value of AU$100 million or for a length of three years in a bid to allow SMEs the chance to bid for smaller parts of big projects.

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