Software industry and government representatives say there is a worrying shortage of trained and experienced staff for large-scale ICT developments. However, industry sources say some of the worst effects could be mitigated against by a more strategic and collaborative approach.
This would spread the workload and organise it more logically, and some measure of consolidation of work among agencies would also help, says Chip Dawson, president of Software New Zealand and one of the prime movers of the embryonic industry-wide organisation ICTNZ.
In recent deliberations over government work, it has been suggested that a lot of “reinventing of the wheel” goes on, Dawson says. It is usual for more than one agency to contract for independent development of very similar systems and this appears wasteful.
This reflects something of the philosophy of co-ordinated “inputs” espoused by the former CIO of the Australian state of Victoria, Steve Hodgkinson (Computerworld, December 4). He suggested that following consolidation of physical infrastructure, such as is currently being attempted with the Government Shared Network, the logical next step would be for agencies to use the same applications for common purposes such as financials and human resources.
So could this work to reduce the development load?
“I think there are opportunities to share business applications, but not on an all-of-government basis,” says the SSC’s ICT deputy commissioner Laurence Millar. It is easier to see immediate advantage in collaboration among similar organisations, such as district health boards or libraries, but not among agencies whose fields of work are very different.
Some applications, such as authentication, have been designed deliberately on a “build once use many” (BOUM) basis, but for business applications Millar prefers to let consolidation happen “in an organic fashion”, rather than by a “big bang” decreed from the top.