Australia Post has CMM level 3 in the bag

Australia Post kicks off an NT4 upgrade to Windows 2003 this week, a large-scale project that will really measure the value of the organization's newly formed Production Assurance and Testing Unit.

Established to standardize development and testing, the unit's manager Lynda Christopherson said the goal is to reach CMM level 3 in the next 12 months.

"We are currently hovering at around level 2 and ultimately the goal is to reach CMM level 5," Christopherson said.

Speaking at Mercury Interactive's user conference in Melbourne, she said Australia Post has undergone a huge transformation in the past 20 years from an old-fashioned, slow-moving organization with dull products to one that is profitable and dynamic.

Transforming Australia Post, which currently has 35,000 staff, began in 1989. The organization's IT has undergone significant change and was completely outsourced between 1992 and 1997.

Christopherson said it was bought back in-house from 1998 to 2003 before Australia Post embarked on a selective sourcing model.

Under this model, she said application development and maintenance was reviewed and led to the establishment of a test centre of excellence.

Previously testers and developers worked in different teams throughout the organization with no common testing methodologies in place.

"We reviewed our mixed set of three different testing tools and reduced it to one and undertake 30 tests at any given time in various environments such as Unix and Wintel," Christopherson said.

The new unit has 22 permanent employees and 25 contractors. Christopherson claims Australia Post has a good mix between in-house and external providers which include the likes of Accenture, BearingPoint and Kaz Computers.

"Our external providers will complete a product and we will do the testing; at the very minimum an install test and network test," she said.

"Providers can also access our testing tools on-site and off-site and we do some post-implementation reviews, but they are still ad hoc.

"At any given time we can be managing five external providers so it can get complicated."

Christopherson said the biggest challenge when setting up the unit was bringing everyone together as there were some HR problems to overcome.

"Previously they worked in separated teams but now that they are together there is more skills-sharing," she said.

Also at the conference, Accenture reported on research into the IT infrastructure plans of 100 CIOs which covered 75 based in Australia and 25 in Singapore.

The report showed CIOs wanted to look beyond IT vendor infrastructure visions which have a technology-centric view and go past the hype, according to Anmol Mundair, the head of Accenture's infrastructure consulting business.

CIOs plan a three-phased approach over the next two years, starting with consolidation and standardization, followed by virtualization and automating the data centre and finally, utility computing.

"We are heading towards predictive operations that are always on; this is repeatable processes and standards that will ultimately converge with utility computing," he said.

When it comes to technology adoption, Australian organizations are moving quickly.

"Australian companies are adopting Linux more quickly than the rest of the world," he said, adding that there are still plenty of challenges for IT to overcome.

Sandra Rossi attended the conference as a guest of Mercury Interactive

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