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Defence IT Woes

Deano 4 December 2006 25

Today’s Canberra Times reports that Labor Senator Mark Bishop told 2CC listeners last week that workers in Defence could take their annual leave while waiting for a help desk fix.

Working in Defence, I have first hand experience of this. Simple network access changes take anything up to 28 days. Heaven help you if your workstation fails as it takes six weks to get a replacement. With everything computerised these days, there is nothing you can do but sit and wait it out. Its bad enough seeing public servants sitting around doing nothing, but when it includes $1000 a day consultants, the situation is scandalous.


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RandomGit RandomGit 10:02 am 05 Dec 06

Deano, your problem seems to be managers who can’t pick a winning horse, and then don’t have the balls to put it down when it goes lame.

che che 9:52 am 05 Dec 06

actually the contract was written by ex NCO’s, all the officers jumped ship and went to work for the contractor

Maelinar Maelinar 9:16 am 05 Dec 06

Defence is in the enviable situation that they have maintained uniform wearing IT personnel, their problem being that they have never trusted them to display the intelligence and autonomy to deliver IT solutions.

Outsourcing in Defence will always fail for several of the reasons already stated, primarily due to it not being delivered by Defence staff, quite a catch 22 when compared to my first paragraph.

I agree wholesomely that Defence couldn’t write a contract, let alone something more complex than banging two rocks together. This is due to their over-confidence in snotty little Captain ranked officers capabilities, a lesson hard learned by the regular forces as far back as Vietnam but unfortunately still not realised by the general officer corp.

DT DT 9:13 am 05 Dec 06

In The Australian a while ago, Defence backed its contractor and blamed it all on the skills shortage

VYBerlinaV8 VYBerlinaV8 8:50 am 05 Dec 06

Service Level Agreements are a great idea, but often fail to achieve their goal. Most outsourcers have standard SLA sets from which the customer selects (along with respective pricing). SLAs are often not selected by the client to give them the best result, and in some cases are not fully agreed prior to contract signing (like at the Tax Office).

smokey2 smokey2 8:00 am 05 Dec 06

Not speaking for either this project or my current employer, however having worked for outsourcers in other places – The pressure is to keep the client happy. Failure to do so means you lose the client and consequently lose your job.

What is the problem and how do you manage it?
Why does it take so long. If it were that easy and quick then someone would do it and obtain the brownie points. Are the current procudures part of the problem?

Jey Jey 8:50 pm 04 Dec 06

My partner who worked as IT support at defence says: ‘hmm, it was that bad when I was there, will only get worse as the outsource more’

Deano Deano 8:16 pm 04 Dec 06

It’s not all about you.
Damn right. It’s not all about me but also about the service men and women representing our country that I can’t support to the best of my ability because the IT systems that I need to do my job are not being adequately supported.

outsourcing deals have an exit clause and service levels they must meet
Yes they do, but when all of your support staff have been transferred to the contractor’s company you just can’t transfer them back again into the public service. Financial penalties are rarely enforced because of the risk of ruining the company and ending up in a much bigger mess.

kaydo kaydo 6:15 pm 04 Dec 06

I know nothing of defence specifically, but most outsourcing deals have an exit clause and service levels they must meet. This means there should be something measured, with a financial penalty if its not delivered on agreed schedule. I’d hope that this is happening, even if you’re not getting reasonable service, it should cost the service provider if they suck.

Exit clause should also give them obligations for a sensible handover to another provider should their contract ever be terminated. This means skills transfer, doco etc

Though as I said, I know nothing of defence…

Deano Deano 5:36 pm 04 Dec 06

Your masters just aren’t prepared to pay for an adequate level of service for you.

It doesn’t work that way. Defence went to the market and asked how much would you charge to provide this service? Players in the market responded with $ XXX million. Defence selected one of the respondents and is paying them $ XXX million but the contractor is failing to provide the service. It’s not a case of not paying enough because the contractor agreed to provide the required level of service at the set price.

The big problem is that now the contractor is in place it is nearly impossible to get rid of them without causing major disruptions.

podfink podfink 5:15 pm 04 Dec 06

I have been on both sides of the coin. As an APS officer frustrated with the poor IT service. But also as a contractor for the IT service. If you’re in the APS and you think outsourcing doesn’t work, you’re wrong. Your masters just aren’t prepared to pay for an adequate level of service for you. There is a list of VIP staff who get amazing levels of service. Just not the great unwashed.

RandomGit RandomGit 4:18 pm 04 Dec 06

You and the other 200 people moving networks Deano. Plus the account replication time to a new Domain server. Plus lost mailboxes, MQ Series crashes, your manager whining about a 20 minute shutdown time on his laptop because it is synchronising 40 gigs of My Music with his network share that he set up ‘for his own convenience’.

It’s not all about you.

Deano Deano 2:57 pm 04 Dec 06

Deano, your issue revolves around the EBCAK issue. No offrence to you, naturally.

None taken, but not sure what you’re getting at. simply tasks like changes to network access when someone moves sections so they can access the new section’s files takes 28 days to action even though the actual job takes less than 5 minutes.

Absent Diane Absent Diane 2:53 pm 04 Dec 06

yeah I prob worded that loosely – by market experience I meant dealing with IT contracts…

S4anta S4anta 2:42 pm 04 Dec 06

VY, thats why Service Level Agreements were invented. BAsically an MOU that ties on a short from contract for services, govt style.

VYBerlinaV8 VYBerlinaV8 2:35 pm 04 Dec 06

In house legal departments will get away with what you let them get away with.

Sammy Sammy 2:29 pm 04 Dec 06

If the concern is around contract writing, then maybe some specialist contract lawyers should be used.

One of the issues i’ve found contracting for Government is that sometimes the contracts are just too onerous. A 20-page contract for a job that’ll take about a week to complete is just ridiculous, and i’ve seen it go this way. It’s almost like the in-house legal department is attempting to justify its own existence. But that wouldn’t happen … nah.

S4anta S4anta 2:28 pm 04 Dec 06

Deano, your issue revolves around the EBCAK issue. No offrence to you, naturally.

RG, trix has hit the nail on the head. There is a small problem with the lack of competant contract managers in the public or private spheres. Aging population and all that bollocks.

Sammy, you must be reading the internet from a parallel universe. good on you however, high fives.

RandomGit RandomGit 2:25 pm 04 Dec 06

No, RandomGit. They have no experience with outsourcing contract management.

Ah, I see. Experience with contract management rather than IT work. Gotcha.

Yeah, I can agree with that.

VYBerlinaV8 VYBerlinaV8 2:22 pm 04 Dec 06

When things are this bad perhaps the senior execs need to take some responsibility. Sadly, Defence is known in professional circles as a pain in the ass client where everything is someone else’s responsibility. Civilian departments are better, but still not good.

If the concern is around contract writing, then maybe some specialist contract lawyers should be used. The biggest problem govco has it it thinks it can do everything, and it can’t – they just don’t have the resources or the right staff.

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