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Canberra mulls IT strike force

By Peter Holland - 13 June 2008 24

THE federal Government is considering using a strike force to drive greater efficiencies in its technology operations.The group could operate as part of the Australian Government Information Management Office.

Finance Minister Lindsay Tanner has asked that Peter Gershon look at beefing up AGIMO’s responsibilities as part of his review of the government’s $6 billion annual IT spending.

So far, the office has largely focused on developing web-based initiatives for the government, such as its Wiki-based platform, GovDex and the $42 million central online portal, australia. gov.au. “The difficulty we’ve got at the moment is that AGIMO’s role is very limited because you’ve got all the decision-making responsibility in individual agencies,” Mr Tanner said.

“I wouldn’t pre-empt the outcomes of the Gershon Review, but a specific thing we’ve asked him to report on is options for a more centrally co-ordinated set of arrangements, and that by definition would involve AGIMO or an equivalent playing a bigger role in technology projects.”

This includes the idea of assembling an IT strike force of experienced IT campaigners to direct projects across the government’s 800-plus agencies.

How cool! a strike force.

just what we need to combat frivolous spending in government departments….

for the full article, see here: (http://www.australianit.news.com.au/story/0,24897,23762858-15306,00.html)

have many of you heard about Peter Gershon and his task to simplify the purchasing and implementation processes for ICT within the federal government? this guy appears to be a one-man committee…

What’s Your opinion?


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24 Responses to
Canberra mulls IT strike force
astrojax 7:19 pm 14 Jun 08

and after a job well done, the It strike force mulls… that’ll calm a few nerves.

i just wanna invent some interface between IT bods and normal people so we can translate each other.

jvb 4:38 pm 14 Jun 08

I also think it’s a wonderful dream. Problem is that the issues are too big to be understood in a meaningful (ie, election cycle) amount of time, let alone do something about them.

How do you rationalise the transaction processing requirements of the large public facing departments like Centrelink, Medicare & ATO, with web information based requirements of places like FACSIA and the like? How do you rationalise very specialised defence requirements with a broad fiat like “use open source”?

What do you do about midrange server proliferation, where every new good idea requires its own new unix/linux box, because this project has money and the project manager wants his own toys/kingdom? Then, oh bugger, we’ve suddenly got hundreds and hundreds of disparate boxes to upgrade and manage and monitor.

Well maybe you take horizontal slices like document management, and HR, and finance, and say ‘you will use this solution’. That has been tried many times before – Mandata is the earliest that I can remember, then there was “you will use only COTS solutions for HR/FI” which was great for SAP & Peoplesoft. But hardly anyone is happy, except the vendors of the annointed solutions.

It’ll be fun to watch. I hope some good comes out of it, but I think it’s a slim hope.

VYBerlinaV8_the_one_ 1:42 pm 14 Jun 08

It’s a wonderful dream, the I think the industry in general os nowhere near mature enough. People will look back at now in several decades time and talk of the ‘glory days’ of IT.

Tempestas 9:30 am 14 Jun 08

VYBerlinaV8_…. your $0.02 sounds suspiciously like pragmatic practical common sense – exactly the kind of thinking that stops IT empires being built.

“Wouldn;t it be nice if we could” has a habit of transferring a “web forum based on PHPBB or invision powerboard for discussions on an issue” turning into a “Internet 3.0 revisioning project running on SharePoint with 16 levels of security and domain control with 5 new graphic design consultants being brought in to reskin the homepage for the intranet”

An massive amount of govt IT investment would never pass a reasonable fitness for purpose test. Can anybody name a Department with a practical working Electronic Document Management System – one that allows you to find documents? I suspect not, same goes for the endless data-warehouses, collaborative work spaces, and insert flavour of month integration exercise.

Seriously the govt as a whole could think about going to Google and saying how can we manage the 20 odd million documents we have and still have a reasonable and effective access control – I bet a whole of govt approach would probably get somewhere, same goes for financial management, ministerial correspondence and so on. The real problem is that none of these approaches would allow empire building and mines better than yours.

Agree re open source – there are so many web solutions that work under CC or GNU that the govt avoids that would actually meet their needs, unlike the off the shelf, endlessly customised clunky monstrosities that pass as corporate applications.

Lets hope a read discussion actually occurs.

VYBerlinaV8_the_one_ 7:51 am 14 Jun 08

Some interesting points there Tempestas. I work in this sector, and my thought is that government needs to think a lot more pragmatically about what it’s needs really are, rather than simply coming up with the usual shopping lists of desires unsupported by business need. Policy agencies are the worst by far – some of the ideas I’ve seen come from some of the people in these places are like a 5 year old’s letter to Santa.

I would rather see a working group formed, made up of a range of public and private sector persons, with a range of IT/business skills. Fundamentally, we need to get away from the immaturity of ‘I want to do this, and I believe technology can do it’ to ‘this needs to happen to support my business – what are the options, technology or otherwise, for achieving it’.

I’ve wasted a lot of time over the past 5 years dealing with public servants who say “wouldn’t it be nice if we could…”, with no business justification at all.

Open source vs not is another can of worms. A policy of open source only would hobble many of the functions performed ‘behind the scenes’ in IT – a lot of the open source stuff out there just doesn’t have the horsepower (and I’m not talking MS product here). Having a sensible, blended approach would be much better, I think.

Anyway, just my $0.02.

Tempestas 10:54 pm 13 Jun 08

Ah from outside we go in, so we can go from inside to out!

IT is a much more complex problem then who/how. I’d suggest half of the agencies in this town don’t even know what they want IT to do. Governments with their bi-polar needs for openness and secrecy and accountability and transparency are never going to find an easy solution.

Often IT solutions are what sounds like a solution to a senior manager who gets his (and its usually a him) 15 year old child to put contacts in his phone.

It would be good if this strike force tried to explore the whole reasoning for what IT a govt actually needs, and maybe one size solutions will never work, virtualisation sandboxes can make security a manageable issue and if it ain’t a web standard it can’t be any good for government.

Of course half of us might be without incomes with a sane approach to IT in the sector.

Still looking at things is a start. Its whether that look comes with a set of preconceptions or not that will make any difference.

ant 8:59 pm 13 Jun 08

After the pathetic flop of outsourcing, I guess they had to try something new. Maybe a centralised brains trust would enable them to catch and keep some good IT people, as it’d be attractive and provide good career prospects. Outsourcing has been utter cr@p and has resulted in mediocre clerically-minded folk being in charge of awarding IT contracts with no concept of what they should have been asking for. Mind you, this flying team will enable them to keep outsourcing the delivery of the service.

Thumper 6:30 pm 13 Jun 08

Unleash the fury ….

Primal 6:17 pm 13 Jun 08

A strike force? Awesome. Camoflauge-patterned suits for all executives!

Sammy 6:15 pm 13 Jun 08

Holy crap, now not only is RiotACT just a vehicle for ripping news from other websites, but really freakin old news at that.

This item appeared in Australian IT three weeks ago!

taco 6:03 pm 13 Jun 08

The government could probably save at least $1 billion by switching to Open Source.

They could then employ Australia’s brightest programmers to help maintain the now critical Open Source applications for a fraction of the cost, and improvements to the software can then be used by individuals and businesses worldwide – a win for everybody except Microsoft

canberracafe.com 5:45 pm 13 Jun 08

No that’s bureacracy again. I’m sure they would like to open it all up but just thinking of the approvals required sends shivers up my spine.

Back on topic – more about this strik force please. It makes sense to introduce more ‘programme management’ over ‘project management’ across Canberra? More governance? Sounds like it will actually be a good thing?

AG Canberra 5:15 pm 13 Jun 08

How about wireless, mp3 and pod casts? How about getting agencies out of the dark ages and into 2008?

We have a Minister that updates his facebook site via his palm pilot – yet we have IT administrators who think 36mb of mailbox storage is adequate and no-one should be able to access a single mp3 file. Who think Web 2.0 is the devil and that we’ll all be ruined if anyone tries to use today’s technology….

Absent Diane 5:14 pm 13 Jun 08

you are being hysterical fnaah… :p

ernieball in the states were the first major american company to ditch microsoft products for open source solutions. I read somewhere tha t apparently their move cost MS USD200 million in revenue due to copycatting. according to owner sterling ball (who is a bit of an eccentric maverick) their network and desktop’s have never been more stable. they ditched them MS over BS licensing issues.

fnaah 4:51 pm 13 Jun 08

How about pulling out the entrenched middle management and letting the IT people get their jobs done with a minimum of meetings and bureaucratic nonsense?

How about considering open source software instead of shovelling money at Microsoft all day?

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