Tax executives take to wireless

The Australian Taxation Office could expand a pilot project involving access to corporate information through wireless means.The test, which commenced in May, has been highly successful, ATO chief information officer Bill Gibson told ZDNet Australia.

The Australian Taxation Office could expand a pilot project involving access to corporate information through wireless means.

The test, which commenced in May, has been highly successful, ATO chief information officer Bill Gibson told ZDNet Australia.

Approximately 30 executives were able to access their diary, contacts and e-mail applications through wireless, CDMA-based personal digital assistant phones. Tablet PCs were used to connect to corporate systems. The product brands were not provided.

The pilot has proven to be a rousing success, with Gibson saying: "Some of them would kill me if I took it [the devices] away from them." A formal evaluation process will take place at the end of October once the mobility project ends.

The organisation will make a decision in early 2006 as to the technology's future and the extent of any deployment, he added.

"We'll take stock of how useful it was, [whether] the functionally is up to what our mobile executives need ... is it appropriately robust and resilient," Gibson said.

An ATO spokesperson said all wireless devices are secured via two-factor authentication protocols, as well as being fully encrypted both within the device and when connected.

Looking through the oracle
Gibson said its Siebel Systems customer relationship management software implementation was still going ahead as planned, despite Oracle acquiring the company.

The ATO is deploying Siebel software as part of its AU$450 million Change Program.

"We're about to go live with the first elements of our change program ... the CRM capability is a major element of that.

"We're fairly well committed and comfortable with Siebel as a product -- sorry, I shouldn't say fairly -- we are very comfortable and committed to the product to deliver this functionality, and we don't see anything at all at the moment to cause us concern, in the short-term," he said.

After the acquisition news last week, the ATO released a brief statement saying it was reviewing the ramifications of the deal.

Gibson said the ATO haven't had the opportunity to speak to Oracle but Siebel executives have been on hand to answer queries.

"We've been speaking with the Siebel account executives here, and like everyone, this came as a surprise. At the moment, the information we've got is more conjecture, we've got a lot of input from industry analysts, so we're waiting for and will wait for some months for the details to come out so that we can really determine what the roadmap for the future is.

Brian Mitchell, senior vice president for Mergers and Acquisitions at Oracle Asia-Pacific, said until the deal closes, both companies will continue to operate independently. "We expect the transaction to close in early 2006, subject to regulatory and other approvals. Siebel and Oracle each notified their customers electronically after the press release was issued. Additionally, Siebel and Oracle senior management team members are calling their top customers of each company. Customers are being directed to a dedicated page located at oracle.com/siebel."

Gibson doesn't expect much change if and when the deal is approved by shareholders.

"We're able to use Siebel as it is today to honour our commitments to the Change Program, and we would expect that just like Siebel Systems, Oracle will be 110 percent behind that goal," he said.

The ATO operates a Siebel development centre in Melbourne with between 50 to 100 employees. "It fluctuates depending on the phase of the project ... at the moment it's closer to 50. It's ramping up ... we're now in [the] development release of the use of Siebel," he added.

Meanwhile, Gibson provided an update on the progress of its project to provide its staff with single sign-on capability and alignment of job functions to access privileges. Sun Microsystems was recently awarded a AU$1 million contract to implement the features, which are a part of the ATO's huge and ongoing IT refresh program.

"It is at the formative stage," said Gibson of the project, which his organisation has dubbed 'Identity and Access Management'. "We've got software installed, people working on it at the moment, and we're still determining when it will be fully released into production. But that'll be a little way off yet."

Sun's contract comes shortly after it recently bolstered its identity management software line with two products using a 'federated' approach designed to help companies safely work with partners on their networks.