Govt agencies clamouring for Human Services support

Up to 16 agencies look to take advantage of Human Services' vast infrastructure

The Department of Human Services has pushed back requests to in-source the infrastructure of smaller government agencies due to staffing issues and the sheer amount of work, following a recent in-sourcing agreement with the Department of Veterans’ Affairs.

According to the department’s assistant secretary of ICT Infrastructure Integration, Mitch Levy, the number of small government agencies seeking to consolidate IT services on Human Services infrastructure had grown immensely in recent months.

“Over the last six weeks, I’ve had six other agencies come to me and want a part of the pie,” he said at an ICT management and integration in Sydney this week. Further agencies had also approached Levy around the same time as the agreement with Veterans’ Affairs.

A spokesperson for the department did not return requests for clarification by Computerworld Australia at time of writing.

iTnews reported earlier this month that the Department of Veterans’ Affairs had signed a $20 million deal with Human Services to shift its technical services to the larger department’s infrastructure. Under the agreement, Human Services would also adopt 40 to 50 Veterans’ Affairs staff.

However, Levy said the number of agencies seeking to share services with the department had outgrown staffing resources.

“At this point in time a few of those are on hold because of the amount of work we’ve got on our plate,” he said.

Levy said the agreement with Department of Veterans’ Affairs had already placed strain on Human Services’ resources. Despite the addition of up to 50 staff for Human Services, many of these are expected to come from a management rather than technical background, leaving gaps for additional staff to handle higher workloads.

The transition, expected to be finalised by July next year, involves moving Veterans’ Affairs mainframe, VoIP and entire technology stack to Human Services for 2500 seats.

Human Services is slated to become one of eight core shared services agencies under the Federal Government’s planned reforms, consolidating up to 16 individual agencies. Internal integration plans of Medicare, Centrelink and other internal agencies are already underway for transition by mid-2012.

Shared services tendering is already underway from the department for telecommunications, x86 servers and transitions to Microsoft collaboration and email software.

Human Services’ infrastructure arrangements make it one of the largest systems in the Australian Government, with 2650 ICT staff, of which 1500 are dedicated to infrastructure.

The department also currently boasts 1200 terabytes of storage and 60,000 MIPS servers with an outlook to increase server capacity by a further 20,000 MIPS in the next 12 months.

The existing outsourcing agreement between Veterans’ Affairs and IBM is up for renegotiation on 8 April 2011, though the software giant is obligated to provide software to the department for at least a further 12 months. Levy said the contract may be extended to provide additional support for the department in lieu of sufficient staff at Human Services to maintain the extra load from the smaller agency.

“We’re going flat out with DVA,” Levy said. “We have got some staffing issues, because IBM have supported DVA for 10 to 12 years and they’ve relied heavily on IBM.”

However, he said IBM wasn’t particularly willing or helpful in facilitating ease of transition out of existing agreements.

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