IRIS organisation gets green light from councils

Councils will control intellectual property and development, contract to Datacom

A green light has been given to establish a council-controlled organisation and kick-start development of the new information system to be used by at least six regional councils.

The council-controlled organisation – called a CCO for short – will contract with the provider of the system, Datacom, and the six councils, and will be a legally separate entity from both, Integrated Regional Information System (IRIS) project director Derek Postlewaight says.

“The councils will retain the intellectual property and control of the development.”

The establishment of the CCO has taken some time, he says, because of requirements under the Local Government Act. It states that an organisation, such as the one the six councils have formed, must go through the process of being approved under each council’s LTCCP (Long Term Council Community Plan).

“We needed the permission of the six councils to begin the process of creating the CCO,” Postlewaight says. It has now been secured.

“We have an interim memorandum of understanding with Datacom and the six councils, and are now going through the process of setting up the CCO.”

There was a suggestion earlier in the IRIS project process that Datacom could be a shareholder in the entity, but a decision was made against that, Postlewaight says.

“The CCO will purely be owned by the regional councils.”

The six councils are: Environment Waikato, Northland Regional Council, Horizons-Manawatu, the West Coast Regional Council, Environment Southland and the Taranaki Regional Council.

“There’s still the opportunity for other regional councils to join,” Postlewaight says.

IRIS will be produced using the Microsoft tool set, with much of the development utilising MOSS (Microsoft Office SharePoint Server). The K2 Blackpearl workflow engine will also play a big part, with SQL Server and BizTalk being used for the database and integration respectively.

Regarding whether the system will be hosted or sited inhouse, each council will make its own deployment decision, Postlewaight says.

“There has been no collective decision to host or outsource.”

The complex formula under which each of the six participating councils’ shareholding in the CCO is to be determined, is based on the individual councils’ size and other factors, he says.

“There is an agreed metric for the proportion to be determined.”

The project is looking at a go-live date in approximately two years.

“The complexity and tight integration of the software means the first deployment may be 18 months away. We’re looking at testing three councils one month apart for the first deployments.”

The other three will be tested later, leading to the full rollout in 24 months’ time.

IRIS had its origins in 2007, when the Northland Regional Council was looking at options for replacing its ageing Geac Worksmart application.

Realising there were few viable alternatives, the council approached other regional councils about jointly tendering for a new system that would be shared by the councils.

A joint Request for Proposals was issued and while a total of 10 regional councils took part in the original tender, the number participating is now down to six.

While Northland Regional Council’s existing system was an off-the-shelf package, most of the systems being replaced by the participating councils were custom-built, he says.

Postlewaight is seconded to the IRIS project director’s role from his position as IS alchemist at Environment Waikato and is being assisted by a project manager. Much of the work is being done by staff at the participating councils, he says.

“A lot of people are involved, from all of the councils.”

Postlewaight was unable to provide an overall budget for IRIS.

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