The NSW Government's decision to consolidate 160 of its agencies into 13 super-departments has not spooked the departments from one cluster, according to their chief information officers.
The unconcerned cluster, Human Services, will be formed by rolling together the Departments of Community Services (DoCS); Ageing, Disability and Home Care (DADHC); Housing; Juvenile Justice; and Aboriginal affairs into one unit.
Asked about the IT implications of the merger, Department of Housing chief information officer Dr Vladas Leonas pointed out that his department, as well as the Department of Community Services and Department of Ageing, Disability and Home Care were already involved in shared services facilitated through Businesslink, which would ease their transition.
DoCS CIO Kerry Holling agreed. "I would say that both the human services agencies plus those agencies that cluster around the ServiceFirst organisation are probably well ahead where the other super-departments will be when it comes to bringing their back office services together," he told ZDNet.com.au.
What it will entail, I'm interested to learn as well.
DADHC CIO Jim Hegarty
There hasn't been a lot said about when and how the departments will merge. "It's not entirely clear yet, I don't think, how that will sit on the ground," DADHC CIO Jim Hegarty said. "It's business as usual at the moment. People are looking at opportunities for greater collaboration. What it will entail, I'm interested to learn as well."
He agreed that the human services cluster already had a lot of the work done, but also admitted that Juvenile Justice and Aboriginal Affairs would need to be brought into the fold.
As for other clusters which might not have had as much collaboration, he thought there could be a lot of work ahead. The CIO had already dealt with such a consolidation when he moved to his current department from the Department of Corrective Services. At the time, he needed to merge it together from disparate segments from within the Home Care, Ageing and Disability departments.
"When I joined as the first CIO of the new organisation I was greeted with the fact that there were four different payroll systems, three different finance systems, four different wide area networks, three different email systems," he said. "Everything was in multiples of three to five."
Finances and payroll were "a nightmare", according to Hegarty. "Not only are they [different] systems on [different] technologies, they have different structures in the chart of accounts, someone uses special ledger," he said. "Holistically, to report and manage as an organisation is very difficult."
Yet Department of Corrective Services CIO, Wayne Ruckley, hasn't been concerned about bringing his department together with the Attorney General's department in the Justice cluster.
I'm not sure that there's terrific scope for us to trim further
Corrective Services CIO Wayne Ruckley
"At an organisational level I've taken a proactive role in the CIO Executive council in NSW and I'd like to think that [Corrective Services] is a leader in deploying shared services arrangements," he said.
He believed he might be saved by his department's extensive outsourcing arrangements, which he said allowed him to concentrate on the business of corrections. "The advent of super departments will really enable us to pursue that principle in spirit with extra vigour," he said.
Ruckley believed in general that government departments should do less thinking about what made them different, which he believed was "very inappropriate". "We should concentrate on more what unites us from a technology perspective than what divides us," he said.
Cutting the ICT spend
The government also announced in its most recent budget that there would be a whole-of-government review of ICT spending across the board. The CIOs didn't seem concerned about this measure either.
"I'm not sure that there's terrific scope for us to trim further because we've already done much of the work through our outsourcing arrangements that's envisaged through this ICT review," Ruckley said.
The Human Services CIOs also believed that they'd already been doing a lot of belt tightening by having their services at Businesslink.
"I would expect and I hope that when that analysis is done that we're actually ahead of the pack with respect to the value for money that we get from IT," DoCS' Holling said. He did say that there was more scope to standardise business processes which would allow more efficient shared services.
Anything we can do to put more dollars to clients and less to the back office has got my support.
DADHC CIO Jim Hegarty
Hegarty thought the review would allow departments to showcase the savings they'd already wrung from their businesses, but added that there was always room to improve in an industry that never stood still.
"I don't think any review comes in with the expectation that no one in the organisation has been actively planning... They will have a fresh perspective," he said.
Hegarty expected CIOs to be cooperative. "Any dollars we save from the back end is another dollar available for front line services," he said. "Clients are the main game. Anything we can do to put more dollars to clients and less to the back office has got my support."