Forum: The enigma that is the Supercity

Pushing too hard and too early for IT integration could be dangerous

There are signs building of a serious backlash against the way the Auckland Supercity is being implemented. Whether it’s the way executives are being recruited or the way the Council-controlled organisations are being reorganised, it looks increasingly as if the entire effort is being driven out of Wellington — and that’s making Aucklanders uncomfortable.

Arguably, all of these new structures should be decided by the new elected council and not implemented before elections are even held. At the very least, the new Council should be able to undo some of the decisions made before they arrive if they feel that to be necessary and in the best interests of ratepayers and residents.


See also: 'Veneer' of integration likely for Supercity
We’ve been chasing the ICT end of the Supercity story for a while and have found the decision-making processes to be opaque. At first our calls to the Auckland Transition Agency were routinely forwarded to the Department of Internal Affairs. That’s just rubbing our noses in it.

Messages were left and no response was ever received.

Then we tried an Official Information Request. We asked for the roadmap for the new Auckland Council’s IT infrastructure and were told no such document existed. On the face of it, that in itself is curious.

Nevertheless, that request did at least produce a face to face meeting with ATA, but all off the record.

Then we heard Mike Foley, who leads the business process and systems workstream of the ATA, had canvassed the Auckland councils and authorities about their existing infrastructure and what would be ready for Day One, November 1, 2010, of the new Auckland Council. That led to a new round of Official Information requests seeking out the councils’ responses to that memo.

The results are here and they reinforce persistent speculation that on Day One there will be no significant integration of existing systems, rather a ‘veneer’ of integration will be layed over the top. For instance, when Aucklanders call the council, there may be an extra stage in the interactive voice response system before they get forwarded to existing council service centres.

How more complex systems such as finance and workflows, and expense authorisation, will work remains unclear.

The good news out of all of this is that given the extent of change Auckland is going through, adding complex IT projects on top at this stage would probably be a mistake and such projects could be subject to massive scope change and creep. A ‘veneer’ at least delays such activity until it can be properly coordinated by the new council.

It also means existing IT jobs have a level of security, at least in the short term, and that the direction of integration may be controlled by local officials rather than national ones.

The bad news is that significant cost or efficiency savings out of IT have also been delayed and so has the opportunity for a step change in the way services are delivered, as envisaged in the original Royal Commission report on Auckland governance.

A ‘veneer’ is not an integration and it’s not much of a vision either. It might even make dealing with council harder. Either way, it looks as if Aucklanders will have to look to their new council for ICT direction and development and hope that body is not hamstrung by decisions now being made by unelected officials.

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