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WA shared services back on track

An independent review of the Western Australian Government's mammoth Shared Corporate Services Project has recommended it proceed according to its current plan and budget, as it was currently meeting its revised milestones.

An independent review of the Western Australian Government's mammoth Shared Corporate Services Project has recommended it proceed according to its current plan and budget, as it was currently meeting its revised milestones.


(Credit: WA government)

The state initiated the predominantly Oracle-based project in 2003 to consolidate financial, procurement and HR back-office functions from agencies to three shared services centres, with the aim of shaving some $55 million off its annual $315 million corporate services bill.

However, the timeline was not achieved and costs rose to over $400 million. After a damning report by the Western Australian auditor general, last year a new plan was developed, scheduling the completion of the project in 2013.

According to IT consultancy Quadrant, which has reviewed the project's progress since this time, most of the new milestones, such as the successful implementation of HR/payroll systems for the Department of Treasury and Finance — Shared Services department, and the supply of the first enterprise resource planning system for the Department of Local Government and Regional Development, had been met.

Western Australian Treasurer Troy Buswell yesterday released the report, saying he would give the program a new lease of life on the condition that budget targets and implementation milestones continued to be met.

Happy with the progress, Quadrant recommended that the project proceed according to its current plan and budget, saying there were no issues that were significant enough for the government to resort to the other two options, which were ditching Oracle's human resources and payroll system for the agencies' own Talent 2 system or rolling back the program.

Although the risks of continuing the program were high, Quadrant believed those of carrying out the other options were higher. An Australian Oracle spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment on the issue.

Risks Quadrant identified included the high number of agencies to be rolled in to the services from 2009/2010, compared to a relatively light schedule to date, and the fact that the Oracle e-Business system upgrade scheduled to occur in 2013 had not been factored into the overall budget. The report recommended that some of the agency roll-ins be moved forward.

Although Quadrant expressed concern that there was no extra time built into the plan for unforeseen events, it said that since later roll-ins would be conducted faster than those earlier, some items would take less time than stated. Good progress had been made on roll-ins of major and multi-agencies up to this point, with some occurring faster and ahead of schedule, the consultancy said.

Improvements, such as the removal of workarounds, was given less vigorous approval, although Quadrant didn't feel any problems jeopardised the program except one — a workaround involving cash reporting.

"Currently this issue is causing additional workload within the SSC (Shared Services Centre), which is seen as unsustainable once more agencies roll in," the report said, although it added that an option for resolution was close to being chosen.

In addition, any move to abandon the integrated Oracle solution at this time would require a considerable program re-planning effort

Quadrant's review

The designing and testing of a HR system, which provides payroll functions for different employee awards and agreements, was behind schedule. Although Oracle said in the report that the experience gained so far would help in speeding work to come, which Quadrant believed had basis.

The ditching of Oracle's HR and payroll system was averted due to integration problems. Despite success of the Talent 2 HR system in the Health Corporate Network (HCN) service centre, Quadrant noted that developing an interface between the Oracle finance and agency HR product had yet to be resolved by HCN and that the effort required to achieve this looked to be significant.

"In addition, any move to abandon the integrated Oracle solution at this time would require a considerable program re-planning effort, during which time agency implementations would cease," the report said.

The review was not supposed to provide a financial assessment of progress, but Quadrant did say that the principles which underpinned the rationale for the savings were sound.