S'pore SOE project sees delay

Delay in ambitious plan to standardize Singapore government's ICT operating environment understandable due to complexity and consolidation, analyst notes, while official says similar initiative for schools on track.
Written by Vivian Yeo, Contributor on

The Singapore government's standard ICT operating environment (SOE) initiative has met with delays but given the scale of the endeavor, one analyst notes that such setbacks are not unexpected.

Dubbed SOEasy, the ambitious project which commenced in February 2008 was meant to standardize desktop, network and messaging components for 60,000 public officers across 74 government agencies. It was originally expected to be complete by Mar. 31 this year.

However, the country's government CIO, Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA), has indicated that implementation work is still ongoing.

While IDA did not release details on how far the initiative is from completion, ZDNet Asia understands there will be an official update on SOEasy next month.

Calling the SOEasy project a "bold move" by the Singapore government, Janet Chiew, Asia-Pacific research manager at IDC's Government Insights, noted that the implementation of common operating environments across a country's entire government infrastructure involves "complex, large scale and operationally intensive projects".

"IDC does not expect any project of such a scale to proceed without any challenges or delays," Chiew said in an e-mail. "Realistically, consolidating requirements, aligning expectations of multiple agencies, migration from legacy infrastructure, transition and deployment to 60,000 public service officers are not simplistic tasks."

She added that another factor which could have impacted the SOEasy rollout was Hewlett-Packard's 2008 acquisition of EDS, which led the consortium that was awarded the 8-year project.

"Whilst HP has actually done a very good job at integrating the strengths of the two companies at a strategic level, it is slightly behind on the actual implementation, especially in regions further away from their U.S. headquarters like Asia," Chiew pointed out.

"It is…fair to say that the SOEasy and SOE [for] schools rollout are likely unlucky victims of that delay," she said. "That said, we see the government and executing partner HP fully focused on the final deliverables of this project, even if that means accepting additional delays in favor of the best possible implementation."

SOE for schools on track
While the SOEasy project timeline has hit a snag, the Schools SOE program, or SSOE, is on track, following initial delays in the tender process. The second phase of the rollout is expected to cater to 40,000 teaching and administrative staff as well as 500,000 students, but the total number of subscription seats is projected to reach about 120,000.

The project was awarded last June to NCS, an IT services provider owned by SingTel. Since the contract commenced in July 2010, the solution architecture, setup and testing of SSOE services have been completed, according to a spokesperson from the Ministry of Education (MOE).

She told ZDNet Asia in an e-mail that nine "pilot schools" are in the midst of SOE rollout following end-user training. The schools involved in this phase of the project are: Hong Kah Secondary School; Hua Yi Secondary School; Juying Primary School; Loyang Secondary School; St. Andrew's Junior College; St. Hilda's Primary School; St. Margaret’s Secondary School; Tampines Junior College; and Yishun Town Secondary School.

SSOE project personnel have also initiated kickoff meetings with all other schools to help them better understand the program and prepare for the rollout, which will take place in phases from August 2011, the spokesperson added.

While the SOE suite of services includes messaging and collaboration elements, schools under the MOE are currently using Google Apps and will continue to do so. "The SSOE service provider will support iCON (Google Apps-based messaging system for schools) as part of the standard MOE applications," the spokesperson said.

The education ministry also noted that change management programs and the support of school leaders are crucial for the successful implementation and adoption of SOE. To help smoothen the transition and better manage issues during rollout, every school is supported by a customer relationship manager and transition manager who will be backed by a team of engineers.

In addition, feedback from users in the pilot schools and lessons learnt during the initial rollout will be used to "finetune the transition and deployment process for the remaining schools", the spokesperson said.

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