Friday, October 17, 2008

Gershon report released

The Gershon Review of the Australian Government's Use of Information and Communication Technology report has been released by the Department of Finance, and it makes for an interesting read.

Peter Gershon's key findings were that,
1. There is weak governance of pan-government issues related to ICT.
2. Agency governance mechanisms are weak in respect of their focus on ICT efficiency and an understanding of organisational capability to commission, manage and realise benefits from ICT-enabled projects.
3. The business as usual (BAU) ICT funding in agencies is not subject to sufficient challenge and scrutiny.
4. There is a disconnect between the stated importance of ICT and actions in relation to ICT skills.
5. There is no whole-of-government strategic plan for data centres. In the absence of such a plan, the Government will be forced into a series of ad hoc investments which will, in total, cost in the order of $1 billion more than a coordinated approach over a 15-year period.
6. The government ICT marketplace is neither efficient nor effective.
7. There is a significant disconnect between the Government’s overall sustainability agenda and its ability to understand and manage energy costs and the carbon footprint of its ICT estate.
Some of the key activities outlined will have major impacts on the way in which ICT is managed in the public sector, such as,
  • reducing the use of contractors (by 50%),
  • having CEOs responsible for capabilities setting for ICT,
  • standardising business processes and architectures,and
  • focus increased scrutiny on effective funding of ICT BAU activities - in areas from desktop computers through to financial system costs per transaction - in order to reduce costs on legacy systems.
There were some very interesting points regarding the vulnerabilities of the Federal government in the IT area, partially due to the concentration of power in Canberra. For instance,
  • Federal agencies largely have a Canberra-centric IT model, with 79% of IT staff based in the city.
  • This exacerbates the IT skills shortage, leading to the greater use of contractors (23% pof the workforce) - who cost significantly more (average $186,000 per annum) than ICT staff ($92,000 per annum) based on fully loaded costs (includes equipment, training and other costs)),
  • It also places enormous reliance of Canberra's single power grid, for which 85% of the power comes from a single feed.
There was considerable discussion of how to create professional IT career paths, to better manage the ICT workforce, improving staff retention and corporate knowledge.

Also discussed was cross-agency planning and purchasing, where already slow, out-dated and complex procurement processes lead to sub-optimal outcomes and do not take best advantage of government's buying power. That's not to mention the need to revisit data centre management to also take advantage of central buying power.

I also particularly welcome the recommendation to strengthen AGIMO's role to be a proactive lead in Government ICT to help realise efficiencies and reduce duplication.

The next step is for the government to have a think about the report's recommendations and take some actions in a reasonably short timeframe.

I await with anticipation.

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