WA Department of Finance to fast-track agencies to public cloud

Department creating a library of artefacts that can be reused across the sector

Western Australia's Department of Finance will help a number of the state government's agencies move to the public cloud following its own successful move to Microsoft Azure.

The Department's Corporate Services division began transitioning from an on-premise environment to a new secure, consumption-based ICT model with systems and apps hosted in Azure in early 2017.

The initiative is part of Western Australia (WA) Government’s GovNext-ICT Program which is reforming IT infrastructure within the public sector with new network, cloud and security technologies.

Andy Wood, executive director, corporate services at WA Department of Finance, said most, if not all WA government agencies have approached his team to advise them on their best practices for moving to public cloud.

“All WA agencies are going through the same thing at the same time," he told CIO Australia.

“We are in the process of creating a library of artefacts that we developed so they can be reused across the sector. From our perspective, citizens paid for them once, they shouldn’t need to pay for them again and again across every agency.”

Wood said the department will also move other services into the cloud during the next stages of transformation.

“True transformation breeds change, which then breeds further change. This was all about setting up our foundation and foundational capabilities. The innovations that public cloud offers are almost limitless and for us, there are probably three main key focus areas at the moment. Two of them fall into a technology bucket.”

First up, the department will adopt platform-as-a-service capabilities and transform its application stack; and second, it will use data it has built up over time to create new services for citizens. The third focus area is around developing staff, he said.

“We're going to be looking at heavily investing in our people and their digital capabilities,” said Wood. “Not just from our front line ICT staff, but over the entire organisation and then right up through to the executives.”

He believes every single person in the organisation needs to have the right digital capabilities to help the government achieve its strategic objectives.

“Our focus is going to be heavily on further leveraging the investments we've made within Azure and the investments that we're making in people,” said Wood.

While Wood expects some resistance from staff to all the changes, he believes resistance to change is natural and to be expected.

"It’s something you can't really underplay and underestimate, the amount of effort you need in that change management. It's not about dismissing people because concerns they face are absolutely real. It’s about following a process and having a change management approach to walk [staff] through [changes]. So at any point in time they know that it's not as scary as what they thought,” he said.

Wood and his team spent up to 15 months working with staff on change management during the initial phase of the Azure rollout. This was necessary as his team had a lot of resistance from internal staff and external to the organisation, he said.

“As a central agency we hold whole data-sets from multiple organisations, including some federal agencies and some private sector organisations,” Wood said. “It was really about making sure that we could instil confidence in them that [data] would be as secure [in the cloud] as it is on premise.”

Wood said the department chose Microsoft because the vendor was able to challenge some of his "preconceived notions” about the way things should be done.

“We very quickly realised we’re not masters in public cloud,” Wood said.

“Microsoft brought in the experts from all areas in the initial planning phase and once we had a valid business case, we were then able to set up our environment knowing that in 12, 18, 24 and 36 months’ time we have a number of initiatives, particularly around analytics, AI machine learning that we wanted to come through."

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