Ask the government or the senior IT executives that make up the many councils that will form part of the new Auckland SuperCity and they will tell you it is ‘early days’, and all will be settled by the new Auckland Transitional Agency that was announced late in May. This new body will handle the changeover from the current set up to launching the new council in November 2010.
The new Supercouncil will replace organisations that have a total of 6300 staff, $27.2 billion in assets and annual revenues of $2.3 billion. Such a massive merger involving eight, not the usual two entities of corporate mergers, means bringing it all together will be demanding and complicated.
The Royal Commission Report on Auckland Governance that led to the National government producing its own version of the SuperCity, featured “considerable discussion” on the role ICT would play in the proposed organisation, says Tony Rogers, CIO of North Shore City Council, who has produced a paper on the issue for his council.
Richard Purvis, group manager for information management, Rodney District Council, says the Royal Commission report focussed more on councils’ poor involvement in broadband strategy, e-government and collaboration, and lacked ICT ‘muscle’ in its evaluations.
Purvis sees “no indication” government has identified or planned for the various ICT mergers, warning that without strong leadership from the executive team of the Transition Agency, the new council will be in for “a rocky ride”.
The Royal Commission report suggested a ‘functional grouping’ for activities like ICT, with the successor Local Government (Auckland Reorganisation) Bill, proposing an executive team, to be appointed by the interim CEO.
Purvis calls for a CIO, at least in the transition phase, who should assume leadership of the CIOs of each existing council and have the authorisation to run the CIO functions within existing councils via the CIO team.
“The new CIO would immediately carry all the accountabilities for the effective information management of all the current councils, while also being accountable for the merging, consolidation and refinement of all systems processes and people within the normal purview of the current CIOs.”
He says this merger would possibly be New Zealand’s largest at ICT level, with it needing a single structure, platforms and common standards. But it need not all be located in one place, as having distributed people and systems would improve business continuity.
However, Tony Rogers says that as technology becomes embedded in council activity, the need for a CIO is over, and a general manager should run the technology, with a greater focus on customer service.
He says such integration would need to look at broadband, common standards for ICT services and scaling up existing systems that can be scaled up.
Developing and implementing an e-government programme based on service delivery and interaction, with digital channels using mobile and Web 2.0 technologies, would be a focus.
Rogers says an in-house model with datacentres and cloud computing might be too expensive, particularly with their start-up costs, which is why he suggests a managed services model.
“In this model, ICT people become business enablers and not strictly technical people looking after racks of servers and communication networks,” he says.
As transitory arrangements are put in place, substantial business process re-engineering will be essential, adds Purvis, which will be costly in the short term but with a great long-term payback.
Such re-engineering will be fuelled by the councils having many different legacy systems, with even the same brands adapted to suit local bylaws.
Both Rogers and Purvis warn there will be issues of cultural change, which might even involve resistance, if imposed without sufficient consultation, including people protecting their ‘patches’.
As such, Purvis says an interim CIO experienced in mergers and reorganisation of scale followed by a CIO strong in business-as-usual operational delivery is the best solution.
With work underway in developing the new council, which is expected to employ fewer staff than existing bodies, the possible outcomes are already being discussed in council IT departments.
Rogers says CIOs and IT staffers are already thinking of the future opportunities with a variety of line changes, new roles and possible new locations.
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