Will Qld stumble on IT consolidation?

With a reduced scope and changes in organisational structure, the Queensland Government's Technology Transformation Project appears unlikely to deliver on its planned savings or deadlines.

analysis With a reduced scope and changes in organisational structure, the Queensland Government's Technology Transformation Project appears unlikely to deliver on its planned savings or deadlines.

A number of things shifted, as is the wont of government, late in 2009, that will have a bearing on what progress they make in 2010

Longhaus research director Sam Higgins

According to documents released late last year by the Queensland Government Chief Information Office, the government datacentre consolidation aspect of the project may not be completed until 2014, while estimated savings of $135 million per year have been revised to more nebulous figures such as 15 per cent of business-as-usual spending.

"A number of things shifted, as is the wont of government, late in 2009, that will have a bearing on what progress they make in 2010," said Sam Higgins, research director at IT research and advisory firm Longhaus.

Last year, the Technology Transformation Project was brought under the wing of CITEC, the government's technology services delivery organisation. And the Bligh Government released a new technology strategy, Toward Q2 through ICT, with an implementation plan (PDF) detailing new estimated savings and timelines.

In this implementation plan, the deadline for the government to "complete the transition of agency-based datacentres to the whole-of-government datacentres", a key element of the Technology Transformation Project, has been revised to 2014.

However, there has been progress in the initial stages of this project, with the government currently in negotiation on contracts for service management, communications and storage infrastructure to support the consolidations of various government agency servers into the CITEC environment.

"Speaking to those organisations who have been responding to those tenders, we believe CITEC have moved into shortlisting and negotiation; they're just waiting for the call or for the letter," said Higgins.

The strategy document avoids any hard savings figures, instead setting goals such as "by 2013, the government will reduce the per-unit cost of business-as-usual ICT expenditure by 15 per cent".

What they had hoped was a cost-saving exercise became a re-investment in infrastructure, which would generate long-term cost efficiencies rather than immediate savings

Longhaus research director Sam Higgins

"Unlike the original projections that Accenture provided [for the Technology Transformation Project], the way it's couched in the later strategy is much more appropriate because it talks about driving efficiencies out of business-as-usual spending, contractors and electronic service delivery," said Higgins.

"It's easier to measure and has strategies that CIOs can apply is a little bit better. The previous direction under the Beattie Government was, 'We'll do all this transformation and magically achieve 20 per cent savings'.

"If we go back to 2006 when the Service Delivery and Performance Commission, as it was then called, made its projected savings, they were always unrealistic, given the state of the infrastructure that was in place.

"What they had hoped was a cost-saving exercise became a re-investment in infrastructure, which would generate long-term cost efficiencies rather than immediate savings."

For example, following the Bligh Government's decision to streamline its services into 13 departments, many merged agencies have identified opportunities to reduce duplicated applications. "But that's going to take time to address," warned Higgins. "A typical application portfolio rationalisation project takes two – four years."

ZDNet.com.au contacted the office of Robert Schwarten, minister for Public Works and Information and Communication Technology, which did not respond in time for this article's deadline.