The ‘Gershon downunder’ tour is the biggest ICT game in Canberra at the moment. What might the outcomes of Sir Peter Gershon’s independent review of the Government’s management of ICT be? My view is that the recommendations will, or ought to cover:
- The CIO role — redefinition of the role of AGIMO (The Australian Government Information Management Office) and agency CIO functions in whole-of-government ICT management — clarifying the CIO’s modus operandi and basis of authority.
- ICT planning — definition of the need for a more coordinated whole-of-government ICT planning process, mirrored in agencies, with central approval of major ICT investments.
ICT oversight and reporting — broader application of the Gateway process and new reporting regimes for major ICT projects and for agency-operational ICT expenditure.
- Core ICT infrastructure — definition of a portfolio of core ICT infrastructure (data centres, networks, development tools, middleware, desktops, office productivity/collaboration tools etc) and a plan to migrate over time to more standardised implementations across agencies.
- Core ICT contracts — consolidation of ICT purchasing contracts where possible to whole-of-government or multi-agency contracts to achieve purchasing economies and provide better visibility of spend with the major vendors.
- Shared services — consolidation of some ICT functions into shared services centres serving multiple agencies. Also definition of some shared business functions, most likely for corporate services, finance, HR, commodity procurement and fleet management.
Recommendations such as these will have a big impact on agencies and vendors. All parties are naturally nervous — and perhaps tempted to keep their ICT budgets and contracts out of the spotlight until the review team have filled their savings quotas and left the building. More constructively, though, how should you think about your participation in the review?
Five tips for agency executives and CIOs
First, keep an eye out for opportunities in the new world: These reviews can be great career builders — those involved in the review team will position themselves as the ‘movers and shakers’ of the future. Get with the programme.
Second, put your best people forward: Assign a senior ICT executive to manage your agency’s participation in the review. Or volunteer one of your best people to join the review team. That way you know what is really going on inside the review and can influence their thinking.
Third, assemble your ammunition: Create a ‘war room’ of descriptive data and information in anticipation of requests from the review team. Identify the key business and ICT issues facing your agency and assemble the facts.
Fourth, get on the front foot: Brainstorm ideas about the issues being addressed by the review and possible solutions. Decide what your agency might be seeking to gain from the review and what you might be able to offer to other agencies by way of reusable assets and capabilities.
Finally, ‘get real banana peel’: Reflect on the risks that the review might present to your agency and consider appropriate mitigation/defensive actions. Is there a danger of mission-critical projects or applications becoming unproductively entangled in whole-of-government initiatives?
Five tips for vendors
First, take stock of your exposure: Understand your exposure to any possible consolidation or rationalisation of contracts and vendor relationships. Review your contract portfolio and map the end/renewal dates to understand the windows of opportunity that might enable Government to rationalise contracts.
Second, develop your advice to educate government: Brainstorm ideas for your company to offer in a submission to the review team. Be prepared to educate Government about the economics, key issues, opportunities and constraints of your part of the ICT industry.
Third, consider incumbency and vendor ecosystems: An explicit objective of the review will be fewer vendors and greater reuse of common applications and infrastructure platforms. Where do you fit in this landscape? If your footprint in agencies lacks critical mass, should you get started forming partnerships with other vendors that have a stronger incumbent position?
Fourth, get fighting fit: The review will up the stakes for the big players. There will be more to lose and more to gain — but you will also need to bolster your endurance and tolerance to pain. Manage the expectations of your superiors for drawn-out, high risk, tendering processes — winner takes all.
Finally, don’t panic! The reality is that the sort of change contemplated by the review remains very difficult to implement. The Government’s reach is likely to exceed its grasp. Your primary relationships will likely remain agency-by-agency, so don’t burn your bridges during the review by neglecting to maintain positive relationships with your individual agency clients. These may prove to be more enduring than the Minister for Finance and Deregulation Lindsay Tanner would prefer.
Dr Steve Hodgkinson is research director, public sector for Ovum in Melbourne.
Join the CIO New Zealand group on LinkedIn. The group is open to CIOs, IT Directors, COOs, CTOs and senior IT managers.