Baselining key as WA forges ahead with shared services

As state governments scramble to achieve better efficiencies through shared services, Western Australia has revealed how its strategy has been two years in the making.

Tony Mills, WA's office of shared services' director of ICT, told Computerworld that approaching shared services across government departments involves "the same old story".

"We sat down and asked 'where are we today', and established a baseline position nearly two years ago," Mills said. "Planning and baselining was most important to get government support [and] you need that for a high-level concept."

WA's shared services vision is about consolidating HR, financial, and e-procurement activities into a single, shared centre. The state recently inked a $66.8 million, 10-year contract with Oracle for the supply of back-office software. Savings of $50 million a year are anticipated with returns beginning to materialize in May next year when the pilot agencies - Fisheries and Main Roads - are the first to be brought into the shared services architecture.

"We are starting with the agencies which will benefit most, such as those with high transactional loads in HR and financials, and with a lot of staff movements," Mills said. "Across the board a good proportion of agencies expect to achieve benefits."

Mills described the project as a "big operation" which is now going through the implementation of the shared applications.

"Then we will go into a two-year roll-in phase; where it is necessary we will integrate with agency-specific systems," he said.

"For example, the Department of Justice will need integration with its core financials and HR. Over the next 12 months, agencies representing two-thirds of the total benefit will have adopted shared services. In 18 months it is hoped that two-thirds of the total benefits are realized."

Although not trying to be at the leading edge of technology, Mills believes WA is ahead of the other states in its approach to shared services, and says the project has had good support and funding from the government and the agencies, which were mandated to take part.

The shared services program consists of three parts: a business solutions team to design and configure the solutions; ICT for acquiring technology, and a transitional area for planning and change management.

Mills said there will be obvious rationalization with the move from the current distributed architecture, particularly where the agencies have their own equipment, which is likely to be redeployed within the agency to reduce future capital expenditure.

"A significant component of the savings will be with the termination of existing services and software licence contracts," he said.

Not content with just back-office applications, WA is also seeking to acquire communications infrastructure services and corporate services in a shared services model.

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