Queensland Housing Services IT overhaul under review

FoPATS project to replace Housing Services' current software system

The Queensland Department of Housing and Public Works’ mammoth Future of Property and Tenancy Systems project is currently under review to confirm its scope, timing and costings.

As of the end of June the project had spent $21.8 million out a total planned expenditure of $56.3 million. The overhaul of the department’s core housing platform — which began in mid-2013 — was originally due to wrap up at the end of June 2017, with the expected completion date later slipping to September 2017. However, the department has warned that the rollout timeline could potentially shift again.

“As part of a continual quality assurance process the department is reviewing the program to ensure that it’s done right and will meet the needs of our most vulnerable Queenslanders,” a spokesperson for the department told Computerworld Australia.

“As you can appreciate, an investment of this size and complexity takes time to ensure it is done right and doesn’t impact our most vulnerable – those in Queensland who need housing support,” the spokesperson said.

The Future of Property and Tenancy Systems (FoPATS) project was initiated in late 2011 with the aim of delivering a new platform within three to five years.

“FoPATS will replace Housing Service’s current software system – a system which has been in place for almost 20 years,” the spokesperson said.

The existing core housing management platform is a heavily customised SAP system implemented in 1998. The system is supported by some 90 other applications, Microsoft Access databases and Excel spreadsheets.

“Housing Services is a large and complex business,” the department’s spokesperson said.

“An example of its complexity is its integrated approach to housing support, working with tenants, social housing applicants, people experiencing homelessness, housing providers and other government agencies.

Across Queensland, this work encompasses $139.4 million in funded services, 60,000 social housing properties, as well as thousands of Queenslanders who need our help each year.”

“The new software system will underpin all of this and as such the department is taking a conservative approach,” the spokesperson added.

In 2007 a project to replace the platform was initiated, but it was suspended in the wake of the July 2009 merger of the Department of Housing and the Department of Communities.

The limitations of the current system include not supporting a single client view and a mobile work force, as well as lacking self-service capabilities for the Housing Service's clients (there is online access only to a limited number of systems).

Other limitations cited by the department in a 2013 request for expressions of interest include housing providers not having direct access to the system, which mean data had to be manually exchanged; limited integration between the platform and the department’s maintenance provider system; a lack of flexibility; inconsistent reporting due to the number of applications employed and the consequent need for “manual data analysis”; and an over-reliance on paper-based files.

At the time the EOI was issued, the system had 1240 users. The department said ultimately the new system will support some 2000 users, and clients would be able to apply for housing assistance online and update their personal details.

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