DoHA reduces system footprint ahead of IT sourcing tender

The Australian Department of Health and Ageing is looking to reduce the number of duplicate systems across the department ahead of going to tender for the lucrative IT sourcing contract that is currently held by IBM.
Written by Josh Taylor, Contributor

The Department of Health and Ageing (DoHA) has kicked off the migration of around 6 grants systems onto one single Oracle platform, which will mark the start of a reduction of duplicate systems in the department before the department goes to tender for its lucrative IT sourcing contract that has been held by IBM since 1999.

The contract to provide IT services, mainframe, helpdesk, and storage services to the department was renewed for another four years in 2010 for AU$109 million and will be due to go to tender by the end of this year with a view to start in July 2015. Department chief information officer Paul Madden told ZDNet that the contract with IBM had been extended as much as possible, and it was time to go back to market.

"We have no option but to re-contest that. In re-contesting that, we want to make sure we have the maximum flexibility available to us in the services and the way in which those services might be provided to us," he said.

"At this stage, we don't have a fixed view on whether it is a cloud-based offering, whether it is a hosted service, or whether it is hosted by us and operated by someone else," he said.

The department will publish its system development strategy in June, after going to market back in September last year for an advisor to develop that strategy. Madden said that the strategy will set more goals for the department, but for now, he was focused on reducing the number of bespoke systems within the department and using more off-the-shelf systems.

"There's a range of health service applications that have been developed in the department over the years and they've all been developed in a distributed approval and authority matter," he said. "Where we are now is to a point where we can acknowledge that some of those systems have common features and common functions, and we're looking to take an enterprise approach to bring those in to single systems."

"Where we are looking to get to is we will use enterprise and off-the-shelf capabilities we will configure to get the business rules into there, and to move away from some of those bespoken pieces."

He said that the number of duplicate systems were in the hundreds, and ranged from small Lotus workflow systems up to the grants management systems, which the department decided to tackle first.

"We've got half a dozen systems across the department in various divisions, and we've chosen to use an existing grants management system that has been created through FaHCSIA [Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs]. It's an Oracle Siebel-based system," he said.

"We're migrating all our grants onto that system so it is hosted by FaHCSIA."

Thousands of staff across the other agencies who need to access the system will have remote access to it, he said.

In February, the department went to tender for a partner to help shift from its existing Lotus Notes/Domino system over to Outlook for email, contacts, calendar, and resource management for its 6,000-odd staff across Australia. Madden said that the department was just in the process of finalising the tender at the moment.

He said that the decision was made to move over to Microsoft Outlook from Lotus Notes because it was more consistent with what the rest of the federal government was using and would allow staff to get more functionality out of the Office suite.

"We're missing out on some of the usability efficiencies of the integration of email function with the Microsoft Office suite with our current configuration," he said.

"The trend across government is to be supported through a whole of government approach, and some of the usability issues we have is not only with our internal users. I guess there are issues in communicating electronically between Lotus Notes and Outlook services across government."

Midway through 2012, the department also completed a complete virtualisation of 5,000 desktops in a Windows 7 environment. Part of the shift to virtualisation allowed DoHA to implement a bring-your-own-device policy for 120 of its senior executives for laptops and tablets using the Good For Enterprise platform.

Madden said that the department was also on the verge of making recommendations on BYOD for mobile phones, and a decision was likely to be made in the next couple of months. He said that many of the senior executives had been provided with BlackBerry phones, and there was a "strong view from the user base" that they would like to follow the trend within government away from BlackBerry onto other platforms.

The department's data warehouse, established under the National Health Reform program and rolled out by Accenture in 2012, has been a big focus for Madden. The project in place will allow all data across the department to be in the one place, and allow for staff to get a better view of a patient's overall interaction with the healthcare system.

"We want to get to the stage where we have a single version of the truth and a very rich set of data, which is available to those users in the department so they have got access to a broad range of data that can assist us in creating the capability to look at some predictive modelling and mapping the patient's path through the health system," he said.

"That's a plan that is well under way, but it is not as simple as moving the data or moving the people."

He said DoHA had finalised the policies around the data warehouse, and was now in the stage of moving the first divisions across into the single data warehouse.

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