Defence CIO unveils shared services plan

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Defence CIO unveils shared services plan
Greg Farr, CIO Defence

Proposal could cut 300 ICT jobs.

The Department of Defence is set to approve a new shared services proposal that could see it cut 1000 jobs, including 300 in ICT.

According to Defence CIO Greg Farr, the proposal is likely to be endorsed by Defence brass in the coming month.

It aims to consolidate some $5 billion a year of ICT, finance, human resources and other functions, in line with plans announced in May 2009 by then Defence Minister, Joel Fitzgibbon (pdf).

Following a recommendation from McKinsey, Defence agreed last year to appoint single providers of each shared service, with Farr's CIO Group responsible for the department's ICT.

Farr told a recent Defence Watch briefing in Canberra that systems such as the Defence Materiel Organisation's logistics and command and control systems and hardware would be transferred to the CIO Group.

Toward the end of last year, all software procurement responsibilities were removed from various other Defence business areas in the department.

“There are seven people in the Defence Organisation who can buy or authorise the purchase of software of which I am one,” Farr said.

“The big change is you can’t do IT yourself. You can only use the shared service provider."

Defence began moving hardware procurement responsibilities -- include the purchasing of all mobile devices -- in February.

Core infrastructure such as mainframe and networks would be separately budgeted for.

Business services and composite applications would be very much in the hands of business users, who would decide "how much money they want to spend and on which business products", Farr said.

But Farr retained the right to veto technology decisions; a right that he had already exercised “on a couple of occasions”.

He said there was less friction than expected so far.

“I expected this to be World War III,” he said. “It’s not. In fact I am pleasantly surprised how this is being embraced.”

Farr is due to pitch his plan to the high-level Defence forum known as the Secretary and CDF Advisory Committee.

The meeting will be overseen by the new Defence chief operating officer Simon Lewis who will chair the Shared Services Implementation Committee.

Although the plan was yet to be endorsed, “people are saying they are comfortable with this so far”, Farr said. He hoped to have a go-ahead before Easter.

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Managing technology decisions

He said his shared services model generally supported requests from Defence line areas, as long as there was a budget and projects were backed up with a good business case.

“With the shared services what I want to get to is: you don’t need to genuflect to me, you just bring your money or budget allocation to me.”

Merely liking an iPhone would not be accepted as a business case, he noted, highlighting security concerns and costs involved in supporting a mixed fleet of smartphones.

So far, RIM's Blackberry devices are the only smartphones to be endorsed by the Defence Signals Directorate for use in any networks beyond the "unclassified" security category.

Farr expected the Directorate to approve other formats in future, but “even then, that doesn’t mean we necessarily are going to have them”, he told iTnews.

“If we have to build a back-end infrastructure to support different formats, there has to be a business case for it.

“I am trying to get that discipline incorporated into our shared services approach.”

Generally, Farr said he would approve purchases with the right architectural intent, well-considered security, reasonable budget allocation, and supported devices.

“I’ll tell you what you can buy, technically, and I’ll deliver it for you. But I won’t second guess that that’s what you want to spend your money on, or something else,” he said.

Farr blamed a lack of technology oversight for Defence's 3700 applications -- a sprawl that he hoped to rationalise under the department's Centralised Processing Project.

In the HR area alone, Farr discovered some 174 applications.

“We don’t need that many. But they are all being used. So we now have the problem of migrating them to rest of HR.”

He stressed this would take time and negotiation.

“Right now I am keen to bed it in. My contract is up at the end of the year. There can be no going back now,” he said.

“We have to turn this into a modern, progressive, flexible IT organisation. By the end of this year we will be there."

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