The Government Technology Services unit now being created and split out of the State Services Commission is not the beginnings of a government shared services strategy, says newly appointed New Zealand government CIO Laurence Millar.
Millar says across the world shared services initiatives have struggled.
“The extent to which that happens depends on the individual products,” he says. “Top-down hasn’t been successful. We want products people understand the value of and want to use,” Millar says.
Whether or not those shared products are used in individual departments is the collective decision of CIOs across government. “Grand design” approaches don’t work particularly well, he says.
Millar says research and analysis firm Gartner reports that 80% of government shared services initiatives have failed to deliver to expectations.
That said, Millar says there are plenty of examples of the benefits of ICT collaboration across New Zealand government.
Millar says Cabinet and ministers have wanted to see an approach to ICT spending and development that sees government as a single organisation rather than as a collection. That has resulted in a series of initiatives across government monitoring, aggregating demand and delivering services.
This has been about delivering a more coherent approach to government ICT, he says.
The creation of the CIO position, to which Millar was appointed this month, formally recognises the all-of-government strategic role within SSC, he says.
Similarly, the establishment of the GTS unit, which Millar expects to move within the Department of Internal Affairs in 12- to 18-months time, is the recognition of the cumulative effect of many individual decisions about how ICT can be used to deliver services across government.
Services such as authentication (the Government Log-on Service), infrastructure (the Government Shared Network) and information products (the Government Intranet) will be part of the GTS.
Millar says the new role will probably not change what he does from day to day, which is talk to people to encourage the delivery of “joined-up” services across government.
He says some government managers are better than others at doing that. When they want to achieve something with technology, they ask who else is working in that area and seek to collaborate.
“It’s influencing change. Not directive,” Millar says.
Millar says he has several goals over the next few years. First, is ensuring the transfer of service delivery to GTS and the DIA.
“We need to make sure that’s done well,” he says.
He also wants to tie use and investment in technology more tightly to government development goals, build an architecture in government that encourages the delivery of joined-up services and develop a portfolio approach for government ICT investment.
At the same time, there are several large legacy system replacement projects unfolding – at IRD and the Ministry of Social Development, for instance.
“We don’t just want to think about replacing FIRST (Future Inland Revenue Systems and Technology) with a new tax system, but think of it as part of a broader government system,” he says.
Millar acknowledges that’s really tough on what already promises to be complex and expensive projects.
Another priority is skills. Millar wants government to be better at using its ICT skills in what is a steadily tightening market.
Finally, and as an indirect effect of this activity, Millar wants government investment to promote and encourage the New Zealand ICT industry.
The State Services Commission is advertising nationally for a general manager for the new Government Technology Services unit.
Millar says the reason SSC is leading the recruitment, rather than DIA, is because the unit is still within SSC and will be for about a year.
At the day of appointment the successful candidate will be working within SSC on the separation and transfer of services to DIA.
Millar says DIA is involved in the process.
The accountabilities of the job, as described in the ad, include the provision of common infrastructure and services that meet agreed service levels; the development and enhancement of services; the promotion of common services to government agencies; and operating the business in a cost-effective fashion.