Aussie offers tips for cash-strapped NZ agencies

Contractor numbers halved to meet Gershon cost savings

One question put to the audience at the IBM Forum in Wellington this year was: “When is your organisation planning to undertake a business transformation?”

Thirty-four percent responded (via handheld keypads) that such an exercise is already under way, with another 33 percent expecting the transformation to start in the next three months. Only 22 percent say they are not planning such a move.

Australia’s Department of Immigration and Citizenship undertook a business transformation plan, following media exposure of mistakes over deportations. But the redesign has also contributed to the agency’s effort to reach cost-efficiency targets in ICT identified in last year’s Gershon report, says the department’s first assistant secretary in charge of the project, Nico Padovan, who addressed the forum.

The Gershon review was “fairly damning” about the costs of ICT in the Australian public service, Padovan says. It set a target of 15 percent reduction in expenditure for larger agencies such as Immigration.

One identified source of undue expenditure in ICT, he says, was the employment of “a large pool of contractors” in what amounted to permanent roles.

The contractor pool has now been reduced by 50 percent, says Padovan.

A similar problem was identified several years ago in New Zealand public sector ICT.

Some in the audience suggested there might be lessons for the ICT element of New Zealand government agencies, now under the cost-cutting knife, but Padovan declined to draw any parallels.

He lists nine objectives of the immigration transformation, mostly revolving around better and more consistent service to clients. Included are a single data view of the client; a set of “role-based portals”, so someone doing the same job in different offices sees the same screens and navigates through them in the same way; improved recording of information – in the past some files have simply been lost, he acknowledges, and; faster and less expensive responses to new policies with the help of a readily-configurable rules engine.

One significant overall objective is greater consistency of treatment of immigrants: so the same set of circumstances should result in the same outcome, Padovan says.

Inconsistent outcomes had led to some parts of the country being favoured by immigrants as particularly easy entry points.

The redesign project began in 2006 and released its ninth four-monthly update at the end of June, with a tenth in the pipeline.

An overall lesson, says Padovan, is to devote adequate time to business-process modelling, before embarking on the ICT-specific part of the development.

“It will make a lot of things easier.”

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Tags gershonnico padovandepartment of immigration and citizenship

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