Q&A ZDNet.com.au talks to Brian Roche, executive director of
the troubled shared services unit within Western Australia's Department of Treasury and Finance.
Brian Roche (Credit: WA Office of Shared Services)
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 in mid-2007, a new plan was developed, scheduling the
completion of the project in 2013.
Western Australian Treasurer Troy Buswell threatened to roll
back the project, but
gave it a new lease of life late last year on
the condition that budget targets and implementation milestones be
Roche is the executive director of DTF Shared Services, which oversees the non-health and education portions of the shared services initiative.
What are your aims for the next six
to 12 months within the shared services project?
The major focus will be to:
Achieve the roll-in of agencies and progress other projects
such as the build of the various payroll awards required to roll-in
agencies as per the time frames outlined in the integrated project
Complete projects on time and within budget.
What would you consider to be a
best-case scenario for that time period?
See response to question one.
Delays in rolling in agencies as per the
time frames outlined in the Integrated Plan and not meeting project
Is this project the most ambitious
you have worked on? What do you feel you yourself have contributed
since becoming executive director?
I have ensured a strategic and operational planning process is
in place to provide clear direction to ensure everyone is focused
on the basic deliverables. I have improved the project management
focus and have ensured an integrated project plan was established
to improve integration between the various work streams and drives
What have you learned?
Too many things to outline, but foremost
has been the value of having commitment from senior leaders (such
as the Under Treasurer) to assist in driving the reform
The Auditor General's report from a
while ago was concerned about project management weakness. Are you
satisfied that the management has become stronger since that
Yes, there have been a large number of
remedial actions taken since that time to improve project
management and strengthen the overall program.
Are the goals in the extended plan
Turnover of skills was previously a
problem. Have the current financial conditions changed that? If
not, what have you done to combat it?
Recruiting appropriately skilled staff
in a number of areas remains a challenge for the program, but we
are proactively managing this issue.
Has the delay in the project
resulted in any contract penalties for Oracle? How helpful has the
company been when problems have been encountered along the
There is a contract in place with Oracle
for the business system software and for the build of the remaining
The contents of that contract are confidential but we continue
to work with Oracle to ensure we meet the milestones outlined in
the integrated project plan.
Has ASG's service been
Have you found a process that eases
the removal of workarounds? How do you deal with complaints from
agencies who have had to deal with slow roll-ins and
A significant number of workarounds
were rectified in the second half of 2008. There is in place an
ongoing improvement project focused on rectifying defects and
improving the functionality of the system in order to minimise
Complaints from agencies are dealt with in accordance with
procedures detailed in Service Level Agreements entered into with
Agencies were informed of their revised scheduled roll-in dates
and no complaints have been made regarding these dates.
What KPIs are you using to measure
There are governance arrangements in place to drive the program
and to monitor performance.
Regular reporting on the status of individual projects against
project time frames and budgets is provided to the Shared Services
Regular reports on key performance data related to the
operations of the various processes undertaken by the Shared
Services Centre (procure to pay: timeliness of payments, use of
purchase orders) is provided to both the Shared Services Governance
Council and Client Management Council.
Did you agree with the Quadrant
report that continuing with the totally Oracle solution and not
resorting to the Talent2 solution was the way to go?
That report said that there was no
contingency for unforeseen events in the project. Have there been
changes to alter that?
The Quadrant Report pointed out that the
plan currently allocates a similar time to all equivalent roll-in
projects in the future. The report acknowledged that there is a
reasonable expectation these roll-in activities will take less time
as experience is gained, thus creating contingency later in the
If you could go back in time, would
you still recommend that the government start the project?
Yes, although the project has suffered from significant cost and
time delays, the reform will still deliver a number of long-term
financial and non-financial benefits to the Government of Western