Job network members to comply by July 2003

Job Network Members facing multimillion dollar IT upgrades to comply with an application the Federal Department of Employment and Workplace Relations is developing claim it won't meet its July 2003 target date.

However, Anthony Parsons, employment systems manager at the Department of Employment and Workplace Relations (DEWR), rejects the claims saying the transition from the current employment assistant EA2000 application, which tracks and matches job applicants and vacancies, to the in-house developed EA3000 application will go ahead in April next year. The EA2000 application is part of the ESC3 (employment services contract).

He said deployment of the first component of Microsoft .Net-based EA3000 will start in December.

"To give the JNMs the opportunity to get used to the new IT application we will deploy the diary aspect and provide training for the members," Parsons said.

A spokesperson from the National Employment Services Association (NESA) said the training is a positive initiative on the request of JNMs, but warned about the $4 million upgrade cost to large organisations participating in the Jobs Network.

As Computerworld reported in June this year, DEWR was accused of forcing rival work placement applications out of the market for insisting its 200 Job Network Members (JNM) undertake a multimillion dollar IT upgrade to comply with its EA3000 application.

An IT manager from a JNM -- who expressed his doubts about the project meeting its target date, claims that for 18 months the DEWR has been forcing its own products on the members, rejecting others and using what he feels are "dirty tactics" to justify department expenditure to upgrade its product to .Net with no B2B capability.

"The current strategy for the next round of contracts, ESC3, will be no B2B interface and all job network members will be required to use EA3000," Parsons told Computerworld in June.

The IT manager said that DEWR -- which manages interaction between Centrelink and the 200 Job Network Members -- currently provides a software product to manage the delivery of the [EA2000], which is a frontend to its mainframe as well as the corporate interface, which is a "cheap and nasty" version of the B2B portal.

He listed the third-party products that rival the department's in-house developed application as ResMan for the Job Network, JobMax, and JobReady solutions, among others.

Parsons said all high performance JNMs that were invited by the Government to bid and continue with ESC3 will be required to be capable of running Microsoft's XP operating system and will be required to implement a computer security policy by July 2003.

Parsons said the disgruntled job network members are used to having third-party systems and like to keep local copies of information, which they are no longer allowed to do due to provisions in the Privacy Act.

"The third-party packaging doesn't fit with the new policy settings, Privacy Act or have compatibility with the new employment market," Parsons said.

He could not confirm whether Microsoft will offer the JNMs a special deal due to the large numbers of JNMs who will purchase XP. Computerworld's calls to Microsoft to clarify whether bulk pricing would be available had not been returned by deadline.

Parsons said ESC3 will run for three years, adding that, "Microsoft has told me that it is likely that XP will be updated at least once in the contract by 2006," he said.

Parsons said while network members were under no obligation to bid for job network service part three or the ESC3, the aim of the department's plans to "move forward" to an EA3000 application by the end of next year, is to move towards Web services and XML by retiring the old electronic data interchange (EDI) facility to improve flexibility.

The cost of the project is covered in the department's $10 million to $20 million yearly IT budget.

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