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Defence overhauls HR systems in war-fighting effort

Recently appointed Defence CIO Greg Farr will target Defence's "short of perfect" HR system as the first major tech overhaul he will head up.
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Written by Liam Tung, Contributor on

Recently appointed Defence CIO Greg Farr will target Defence's "short of perfect" HR system as the first major tech overhaul he will head up.

Many people fail to comprehend how critical Defence's HR system is to Australia's international military efforts, according to the CIO of Defence.

"Our HR systems are absolutely vital for the war fighting effort... for the development and understanding of the readiness of staff and what training they have had -- all those things that are there to aid, train and sustain a military force," he told ZDNet.com.au.

Defence's HR system, the Peoplesoft-based PMKeyS was implemented just five years ago, but it's the first major system Farr will overhaul.

"The biggest single project that we have on the books in my realm is going to be the replacement of Defence's HR systems," Farr said.

"We haven't selected vendors yet. It's more about how the strategy is brought together at the moment. We have time to do that because our current HR system, PMKeyS, is quite stable. It's a long way short of perfect but it will not fall over."

"That will be a large sum of money that we will spend and we have to make sure we can deliver and support the organisation throughout it," he said.

But Farr is in no rush to rid Defence from PMKeyS -- he doesn't expect to commence the project for at least 12 months.

"We have a little bit of time to get our strategy right and to get the proper involvement of all players to make the right decision," he said.

Having led the Australian Tax Office's AU$1 billion outsourcing strategy overhaul and its five year AU$700 million Change Program, he intends on placing greater emphasis on planning and training Defence staff than his predecessors.

"I'm very much focused on change management process -- that's consistent with my experience [at the ATO]."

Defence was criticised by the Australian National Audit Office after the rollout of PMKeyS in 2002 for inadequately training staff, multi-million dollar budget blow-outs and a two-year delay.

"Technology is not going to be the main thing. It will be change management, training, post go-live support and the hand-holding needed so that people feel confident when moving to the new system."

Defence HR systems will not be shared
Defence's HR and payroll systems will be off limits for any shared services initiatives -- where government departments use the same IT infrastructure -- the new Rudd government may have planned to help cut the AU$6 billion IT bill it faces each year.

While Farr admits Defence's HR and payroll systems are suitable for a shared service model, security concerns mean any such system will be prohibited.

Opportunities for shared services amongst government agencies are headed up the Australian Government Information Management Office (AGIMO) CIO, Ann Steward, who Farr has worked with previously on transformation committees and other government forums.

"Defence will absolutely be in there to save money for the Australian community if there is an opportunity to get better results for Defence and at the same time support military and civil duties."

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