Defence ICT management under fire

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Defence ICT management under fire
Stockshot from Defence

Audit recommends clarification of Defence ICT's role.

The Deparment of Defence will review and "clarify" the role of its CIO group after a federal audit found the division lacked supervision over some $300 million or 25 percent of the department's ICT activities in 2011.

The report [pdf], released this week, found successive surveys into Defence’s ICT environment had failed to provide senior decision‐makers in the organisation with a reliable, consolidated view of Defence’s ICT including expenditure, servers, hardware and software applications.

“CIOG’s current knowledge of the Defence‐wide ICT systems and expenditure, while the best available consolidation to date, is incomplete,” the report stated.

At the time of the audit, CIOG had direct visibility of some 75 percent of Defence’s $1.2 billion annual expenditure on ICT.

However, the report conceded this was an improvement on May 2009, when CIOG had visibility of less than half of Defence’s ICT expenditure.

The continuing lack of visibility over the remaining expenditure meant Defence’s estimates of likely savings to come from its massive re-equipment programs were hard to “verify or validate”.

“Defence therefore has a less than complete view of the information needed to effectively manage its ICT, plan future systems, and fully deliver the savings necessary to support the White Paper targets,” the audit concluded.

The report recommended the department clarify CIOG’s role as ICT service provider and coordinating capability manager of Defence ICT and that program managers adopt a “full partnership” model with CIOG to deliver relevant portfolio initiatives.

It also recommended an improved portfolio‐level view of Defence’s enterprise needs and managing Defence as a single entity and avoid fragmented approaches to risks, benefits and financial monitoring of of ICT investments.

Defence accepted both recommendations.

Strategic reforms at risk

The report suggested failure to re-align CIOG's activities with the rest of the department would have an adverse effect on the organisation's programs elsewhere.

It pointed to eight major strategic reform program (SRP) streams undertaken by the department which depended on ICT projects or elements of ICT projects to succeed.

Schedule slippages on some of the reform program streams were already evident at the time of the report, which the federal Auditor-General warned could have a domino effect on other SRP  activities and threaten anticipated savings from the initiatives.

The report also queries the effectiveness of the department's varied central committees and how various ICT projects received the go-ahead in the absence of direct oversight of the CIO group.

“By early 2011, it was evident that the relationships between the Defence committees responsible for the governance of ICT reform, for the governance of the SRP ICT reform stream, and for the oversight of ICT initiatives supporting other SRP streams were not clear,” it stated.

Defence internal surveys of ICT stakeholders reported that ICT demand management and prioritisation were “not functioning well” and that there was “no effective decision‐making for trade‐offs between competing initiatives".

“CIOG was not always included in stream governance arrangements and did not always have visibility of these ICT initiatives."

The report also warned Defence was under-staffed by approximately 350, impacting on its ability to calculate and mitigate against risk.

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