Local Councils Slag Vendors

Ignored by major software suppliers and struggling to integrate corporate systems, more than half of Australia's IT managers in local government are dissatisfied with their current vendor.

Despite handling budgets bigger than most medium-sized businesses local government has traditionally been an 'unknown' segment of the market with providers not even bothering to find out their needs and expectations.

These are the findings of a Butler Group survey of 86 local government IT managers across Australia which is aimed at providing a forum for these managers to compare their experiences with vendor products and services.

Only half of those surveyed said they plan to purchase from the same vendor with 40 per cent uncertain and 10 per cent definitely looking elsewhere.

This poor satisfaction rating was consistent throughout the survey and Butler Group managing director, Gareth Davies said it highlights the need for vendors to lift their game in service delivery.

However, councils with service level agreements (SLA) were more satisfied with products and support than those that do not have them in place.

Struggling to consolidate corporate systems, Davies said local government has been forced to take a piecemeal approach to IT to justify expenditure so strategic planning has been neglected.

"They have more than a dozen mission-critical systems to manage and no single vendor is able to supply a product that covers all functional areas. Community services, water and sewage, library and communications tend to be serviced by specialist software packages and most of these are not integrated," he said.

A pressing need to include e-commerce in business activities is also influencing the changing environment in local government and most IT managers are reluctant to outsource.

Sanderson's products, Authority and GenaCIS stand out as major suppliers to local government in the survey, followed by Fujitsu's Administrator and Fujitsu 2000 Plus.

"It is interesting to note that the major software suppliers PeopleSoft, SAP and Oracle have very little penetration in the local government market despite the high level of activity; respondents identified a shrinkage in the number of vendors and products to choose from," Davies said.

Although the survey identified integration as a critical issue, Davies said there has been no implementation of a fully integrated system because the cost is high and seldom achieves a satisfactory outcome.

"It would seem local government is yet to experience the pain of implementing fully integrated systems. Reluctance to change is due to large investments in current systems and the cost of data migration, staff training and hardware upgrades," he said.

Staff recruitment and retention was also identified as a major problem in local government because the private sector can offer more attractive opportunities. Davies said many local government challenges are unique to councils.

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