Government bodies put hands up for project awards

Understatement is the key to a successful implementation of a large-scale project, says New Zealand Police Assistant Commissioner Gavin McFadyen.

Understatement is the key to a successful implementation of a large-scale project, says New Zealand Police Assistant Commissioner Gavin McFadyen.

“Frankly, the proof of the pudding is that none of the people who work at the grassroots level of the police knew that the implementation was happening,” he says.

The project that has resulted in the police making it through to the finals of the Computerworld Excellence Awards was last year’s OS/2 to NT migration. McFadyen says it was a logistical challenge, affecting more than 3000 workstations on 360 servers running in 300 policestations from the far North to the Bluff and the Chatham Islands.

“Given the sheer logistical scale of the rollout, we felt it was a significant achievement, and we’re really pleased to be in the finals,” says McFadyen. “To tell you the truth, the project was a stunning success overall,” he says.

The police are up against Auckland company Yakka Apparel Solutions, another finalist in the Most Successful Project Implementation of the Year category, whose project also had to meet with the approval of men and women in uniform.

Yakka director Simon Harvey says the project has seen the company start to process clothing orders for the entire New Zealand Defence Force. Yakka has undertaken the development of a data-entry-free paperless ordering system that is accessible from the secure Defence Force intranet. Yakka receives almost 600 invoices a day from any PC inside the wide variety of departments and units within the forces, and employs locally-made Acumen software from Manufact Data Systems.

“There’s some complex IT integration supporting a very simple business, which is buying goods in bulk and selling them to the individual who needs them,” says Harvey.

The system offers benefits both to the retailer and customer, in terms of efficiency and transactional cost savings. It also cuts down completely on invoicing and receipting. “We get to look at the whole ‘food chain’ of a transaction in one go,” says Harvey.

The Police and Yakka will slug it out with Auckland Regional Council, whose project, C4, overseen by information chief Tony Darby, includes the rollout of a public transport timetable website, among other systems.

The unique challenges and rewards presented by the public sector are a common theme across finalists in the Excellence in the Use of IT in Government category.

Auckland City Environments is in the running with its pre-lodgement automation (PLA) project, which streamlines property application processes by the public and developers.

Project manager Jackie Wilkinson says that PLA allows appropriately skilled staff to process public enquiries relevant to their experience and area of expertise. “It lessons the risk of miscommunication and it’s also a useful staff development tool. It’s reduced our customer waiting time and the amount of technical time they have to spend with our officers,” she says.

“Local and central government are often under attack in the media and anything we can do to decrease the perceived bureaucracy, as we’re starting to do with the PLA software, is positive,” she says. “The system gives the public a pleasant surprise when they come to see us.”

South Auckland Health has been nominated for IT projects it recently carried out, including applications in the Kidzfirst Children’s Hospital and the sophisticated patient tracking system at Middlemore Hospital’s ermergency care centre.

South Auckland Health’s Phil Brimacombe says the emergency centre project was a particularly large and sophisticated one, and is unique in this country. It features a Java-based patient-tracking database developed by Orion Systems that stores a patient’s clinical information and test data from the moment they arrive in the facility.

Clinicians are able to move patients from the emergency ward to another part of the hospital and their case data is instantly available to caregivers, without the time consuming process of transferring physical notes.

“The greatest accolade we have received is that the clinicians actively use the system for emergency care. They’re totally dependent on it,” says Brimacombe.

Indeed the clinicians have had a major role in the development of the system, advising the software developers at many stages. “It was that clinician buy-in all the way through the development of a system, that really they had designed and reflected their requirements, that made it a success,” Brimacombe believes.

The other nominees for Excellence in the Use of IT in Government are the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology for the GPSRD online system (which allows the procedure of assessing R&D applications and grants to be conducted online), and the Land Transport Safety Authority for the driver licence register project.

The latter was a daunting project, involving the processing of new photo-ID licences of all registered drivers. Nearly every New Zealander has been close to the project, says LTSA CIO Tony West, who notes the project’s challenges did arise from being legislatively driven.

But West is keen to highlight the deep sense of success the project gives the LTSA.

“It’s quite sobering working for the LTSA when we see the road toll statistics at meetings on every Monday morning. But it is very, very gratifying to successfully go through a project that we knew would save lives.”

It is a degree and quality of achievement that the corporate sector cannot experience. “It was more than just an IT project,” says West.

The Excellence in the Use of IT in Government award is sponsored by Unisys. Award winners will be named at an event in Auckland on July 6.

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