Cloud crucial for Service NSW

The New South Wales government's one-stop shop for customer service could only launch thanks to the flexibility and agility of cloud services, according to IT director Jacqui McPherson.

This year's launch of the one-stop shop for New South Wales government services known as Service NSW was only possible thanks to the government's decision to adopt cloud services.

Service NSW, which launched in July this year, brings together a number of different NSW government services under the one office, including Roads and Maritime; Births, Deaths, and Marriages; and small business support.

Speaking at the CeBIT GovInnovate conference last week, the agency's IT director of business development Jacqui McPherson said that 400 shop fronts were reduced to 21 one-stop shops across NSW as of December, with a plan to roll out to 36 by the end of June next year.

It was only through the use of cloud services, McPherson said, that the NSW government was able to set up an IT department in eight weeks to meet the launch deadline of July 1.

"We built up an IT organisation including a CRM [customer relationship management], Office 365, and later a Genesys telephony platform, each within six to eight weeks of initial design. This would not have been achievable if we weren't using cloud-based platforms," she said.

"What cloud gave us, very simply, a model we could deliver within our cost restraints. There was a lower startup cost, and a lower exit cost for government if it didn't work.

"It also gave us the ability to trial, to experiment, and to change quickly. We could be nimble and agile where we needed to be."

There was still a level of "sticky tape" that needed to be applied to Service NSW, McPherson said, with the new cloud-based systems needing to access the data of the old legacy systems, such as the driver's licence systems.

Service NSW also didn't initially have access to its own datacentre, so initially for the pilot in Kiama, the datacentre was hosted in the Kiama communications room, while the agency took another three months to build out the datacentre.

"We did need to be agile in all places. Cloud also gives us the ability to support our business objectives and scale quickly," McPherson said.

Service NSW uses Genesys for the call centre, Salesforce for the CRM system, and Office 365. NEC is managing the deployment of the contact centre. McPherson said that there are more features in the platforms than the business could handle at this stage.

"The interesting thing about these particular clouds ... is that there is so much capability to be released that we have to hold back, because the capability of these systems and the products is more than the business can absorb at one time," she said.

"So we've now slowed down the rate of change into our service delivery channels. We've found that IT in some areas is faster than the business' ability to absorb change."

A key component in meeting the government's targets was aligning the vendor service-level agreements with that of Services NSW. This ensured that the services were delivered on time and on budget. McPherson said that using cloud services took some of the burden off government for security.

"Cloud providers have more resources to invest in their enterprise security and systems than government does. It is their business, and it is not ours. So we have made sure that as we have built out cloud into our enterprise architecture, we have clearly defined what those boundaries are around data, around security, and around risks," she said.

The Kiama pilot also had issues at its launch event featuring the New South Wales Premier Mike Baird. McPherson said that someone had said there would be free Wi-Fi at the centre without informing the IT team.

"At the last minute, I think in the last couple of hours, we had a new mobile phone under the counter, with a new mobile hotspot for all customers," she said.

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