ACT govt digital strategy ineffective for IT planning, audit finds

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ACT govt digital strategy ineffective for IT planning, audit finds

As critical systems cracks emerge.

The ACT government has been told to improve its strategic IT planning efforts after the territory's audit office labelled its attempts to do so through the 2016 digital strategy ineffective.

Auditor-general Michael Harris on Friday identified shortcomings with IT strategic planning [pdf] at both the whole of government level and across the government’s seven directorates.

It comes just months after the territory’s strategic board identified one in five critical government systems as “not fit for purpose” and requiring immediate investment.

The audit found a series of initiatives to improve whole of government IT strategic planning through the territory’s key IT planning document “have not been effective”.

It said the digital strategy, delivered by Canberra’s former chief digital officer Jon Cumming, contained “little ... information on the practical implications of the ACT government’s vision for ICT” beyond high-level vision statements.

The strategy also fails to help directorates understand how they should use the information it does provide “to inform, or be translated into, directorate-specific ICT strategic planning processes and documents”.

There is similarly no detail on the current state of the government IT capabilities or the technology to be acquired during the strategy's tenure.

The audit also uncovers “considerable variability and inconsistency” with the strategic IT planning processes at most directorates, though some were found to have mature processes in place.

It said this inconsistency “impairs the ability of ICT to effectively support directorate strategic goals and objectives and whole of government goals and objectives”.

“The absence of a consistent, identifiable ICT strategic planning framework, with clear roles and responsibilities, timeframes and deliverables, makes it difficult for ACT government directorates to consistently and effectively plan for ICT,” the report states.

“This increases the risk of inconsistent and inappropriate ICT planning decisions across directorates and impairs the opportunity for collaboration across directorates and the achievement of whole-of-government efficiencies and cost-savings through consistent planning and procurement decisions.”

While not explicitly stated in the audit, this could stem from poor planning at the whole of government level.

The audit recommends that the government develop and implement a strategic planning framework for IT and a whole of government IT strategic plan to sit alongside the digital strategy.

The territory's Office of the Chief Digital Officer is planning to refresh and publish a new government digital strategy during next financial year.

Critical systems requiring "immediate investment"

The auditor's finds are poignant given the audit also reveals that one in five critical government systems are in desperate need of investment.

An assessment, conducted by the Office of the Chief Digital Officer and Shared Services in January, identified twenty percent of the 50 critical government systems identified as “not fit for purpose”, with the majority of these (17) located in the Health Directorate.

“Twenty percent of systems were identified as not fit for purpose, with immediate investment required, while a further twenty percent were identified as fitting business needs, but with near term investment required,” the audit states.

The assessment was intended to gain an understanding of critical systems – or those requiring continuous availability – across all government directorates.

“The exercise was acknowledged as ‘the first step in a much larger body of work that will need to extend to Business Critical systems and beyond,” the audit states.

“This demonstrates that existing ICT strategic planning processes, including whole-of-government ICT strategic planning initiatives, have not been effective to date.”

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