Parliament website hit by 12 month delay

John Hilvert | Nov 3, 2011 6:46 AM
Insiders query official word on $3m revamp.

The Department of Parliamentary Services has conceded that a $3 million redesign of the Australian Parliamentary website will launch over a year late.

The website, originally due for production late last year, has been delayed by several "substantial" changes in scope that required more development time, a department spokesman said.

Workflow arrangements are now settled and under test, he said.

Insiders told iTnews that the two-year revamp had also been affected by personnel changes.

And those insiders said there are many complexities still to be resolved before the website can be switched on.

The two-year revamp project is being managed by ICT services firm Fujitsu and uses a content management system supplied by Sitecore.

The DPS spokesman expressed strong satisfaction with the way the project is developing.

He added that DPS will undertake a post implementation review of the project as standard practice.

UAT of what?

At a recent Senate Estimates hearing, Parliamentary librarian Roxanne Missingham said the website was undergoing user acceptance testing as well as a new security audit.

“We have staff in the chamber departments and the Department of Parliamentary Services making sure that all of the functions are working," she said.

"Some of the delays have been because the system has been more complex than our vendor originally thought."

Insiders alleged that it was only on the day of the Estimates hearing that an internal memo was circulated inviting Parliamentary staff to participate in the user acceptance process.

“But there’s nothing to test,” the source told iTnews.

“The links did not work, the (DPS) secretary is pressuring the project team to get the website launched and off the books”.

Missingham assured the Committee that content was being built "iteratively".

But another source questioned this as there was no content on the new site.

“None of us know how to alter anything on it. They have Sitecore in now, who will be doing training with us. But there’s no way between now and the end of the year we can get the content updated and do end to end testing. None of that’s been done yet," the source said.

“A large part of the content from new site will be scraped from the old website so we have to keep updating the old website”.

Getting ready for the new look

An emerging headache for DPS is whether the new site’s changed interface, revamped navigation and information architecture will be accepted by its main content creators - the staff of MPs and the Senate.

Missingham assured the Senate committee that the new website is based on feedback from groups in Canberra, Sydney and Geelong—to get a very wide range of users involved.

She said the new site will look something like the British parliamentary website and the New South Wales parliamentary website.

"Taking a new approach, building upon developments around the world was vital," a DPS spokesman added.

"In addition to a new design, respondents indicated that new levels of participation were desired, which would enable citizens and communities to raise their voices and be heard."

Missingham said that Parliament will launch a communications program about the new site’s functionality and its new look.

“We also anticipate that we will be answering a number of questions to help people work their way through it,” she said. 

“We are aiming to use good web design skills, but we also anticipate having material out for senators and members to help them transition to the new website.”