Thursday, November 20, 2014

Auckland Council's big IT blowout

The biggest headline in today's NZ Herald reads $100m over budget and a year late: Auckland Council's big IT blowout:
An Auckland Council IT project considered key to delivering the promised savings of the "Super City" model faces a budget blowout of up to $100 million.
The "Super City" began operating on 1 November 2010 when the functions of the previous regional council and the region's seven city and district councils transitioned into one, as recommended by the Royal Commission on Auckland Governance, which believed that costs savings, service efficiency, and improved governance would ensue. The Royal Commission had assessed the overall costs of the transition "to range in total between $120 million and $240 million over a four-year implementation time frame."

So the Herald's report that the total cost for the IT component alone "could end up between $140 and $170 million" is an unwelcome surprise to Councillors:
Councillor Cameron Brewer said Auckland ratepayers had heard nothing about this "massive project" for exactly two years when councillors approved $71 million.
"Everything has been behind closed doors since which is a real worry.
"I don't accept that escalating costs relating to this key IT project cannot be publicised, nor any of the issues publicly discussed," said Mr Brewer.
"We're told it's all to remain in secret because of commercial sensitivities, but this is a stack of public money. What's more, this whole project has been deemed a significant transformational project for Auckland Council and the way it services the region."
But it should not have been a surprise. Four years ago, Computerworld reported: "Sources within the council say the implementation approach has changed significantly over the past year, from a minimalist top-layer integration approach to an extensive project, involving high use of external consultants."

A comment I posted at the time on the Computerworld article bears repeating:
The Royal Commission recommended that the transition should establish the groundwork for a transformation in working practices and culture for the Auckland Council and service delivery will change following the development and adoption of consistent and integrated service strategy and progressive integration of systems.

So where is the integrated service strategy? What happened to progressive integration of systems? Where is the direction and control to hold the CEO accountable for ensuring project success - as measured by the customer receiving efficient, effective and integrated service and not by technology installed on time and on budget?

Selecting an application before establishing the target architecture for end-to-end customer serving processes and related information results in IT driving the transformation - the tail wagging the dog - one of the key reasons transformations involving IT fail.

It is ironic that the justification for the super city was improved governance but I just haven't seen it.
I still haven't seen it. There is no excuse. The Office of the Auditor-General (OAG) has in the past provided council CEOs with guidelines on Governance and Oversight of Large IT Projects, noting "lessons learned are not shared, and the same mistakes recur from project to project and from entity to entity."

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