Governments: Just like lemmings

As soon as one government decides to do a new project it's a good bet that others will follow suit, in the ultimate fashion obsession.

As soon as one government decides to do a new project it's a good bet that others will follow suit, in the ultimate fashion obsession.

Last week, NSW Premier Nathan Rees outlined plans to combine 160 state government agencies to become 13 super-departments.

This wasn't a particularly original thought. Queensland had decided to do the same thing earlier this year, making 23 departments into 13. In fact, similarities drawn by a news.com.au article between Queensland and NSW make it seem like Rees just took Queensland's plan and fiddled with it a bit.

But even Queensland's thought wasn't original because before Queensland came Victoria, with former Premier Jeff Kennett forming super-departments in the 1990s.

Going super certainly isn't the only communal trend in government. There's also the rash called shared services, which seems to be so contagious it's spread to almost all the states, including our wishful-thinking seventh state New Zealand.

Another big trend at the moment is datacentre consolidation, which Queensland believes it did first. "We already embarked on some of those things before Gershon ever reported them," Mal Grierson, director general of the state's Department of Public Works and Queensland Government chief information officer told ZDNet.com.au last week.

He took the CIO title late last year from Alan Chapman, who had been acting Queensland government CIO and is now the executive director for the government's Chief Information Office.

Of course, government isn't unique in following trends. Think about the universities with their sudden herd decision to go with hosted student email. Or the banks' desire to revamp their core IT platforms. Every company in every industry likes to keep up with the firm next door. But since government has such a public profile it should be easier to spot when the decision to follow some new trend is going to burn through the public arena like swine flu. Vendors have the time to position themselves accordingly.

Take NSW's decision to form super-departments as an example. I spoke with Queensland's Grierson last week who said that the Queensland government's shared services initiative had seen its time frame lengthened because of the amalgamation of the agencies. The focus now was on making sure each of the super agencies operate internally on standard platforms.

Now, assuming that NSW will have to do the same, if I was a vendor which had a system in one of the to-be-amalgamated agencies, I'd be pushing the case already that it was my system the new mega agency should be standardising on.

So whether or not NSW will be following Queensland over a cliff in lemming-like fashion or reaping the benefits of IT savings Mecca, I'm sure it will now be deluged with calls from vendors wanting to have lunch.