South Australia's 1995 nine-year, billion-dollar contract with EDS for all of government outsourcing may have been a prime example of big-bang deals enterprises now love to hate, but for new CIO Grantly Mailes it may have been a blessing in disguise.
All but two weeks in the job, Mailes' key objectives, along with his interstate counterparts, is to look at how to consolidate the siloed departmental IT systems where possible.
"In South Australia a number of policy decisions brought IT together more so than in other state," Mailes told Computerworld, adding the EDS contract in particular brought many agencies to a common infrastructure.
"FutureICT (SA's new IT sourcing department) will renew that and allow us to bring agencies closer together."
With 12 years of IT management behind him, the last six with technology and management consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton leading the ICT practice selling services into government, the 45-year-old Mailes sees the state CIO's role is to "take that infrastructure and work with it up [through the system]".
"The relevance of the CIO is to deliver a centralized strategy across the government agencies and allow the departmental CIOs to concentrate on agency-specific IT." Mailes said the challenge facing all the states is that they must provide services at the state level that must complement those their agencies provide.
With that in mind, Mailes is confident the elements central to FutureICT that can be standardized - such as infrastructure and data integration layers - should be.
"Once we have the infrastructure in place, the next level is applications like payment gateways and HR management," he said.
"There will be differentiation between agencies even across common applications like payroll. For example, some agencies require 24x7 timekeeping while others require nine to five."
On the topic of big-bang versus selective outsourcing, Mailes said: "We want to make sure each contract has the right scale and the focus is on service delivery to the agencies.
"I'm not saying replace EDS with one provider but am looking to optimize the areas of procurement by trying to find the right number of providers," he said.
"We will make sure agencies are flexible enough to provide what they need. It makes sense to have the best service [provider] that suits their needs."
Mailes questioned whether an agency needed to know what its underlying infrastructure is.
"This [architecture] will allow agencies to do everything they need within interconnection and installation standards," he said.
Too early to give realistic TCO targets for any consolidation work, Mailes has a three-to four-year timeframe until the next round of contracting is due and to fulfill SA's objective to be "more citizen centric".