The Department of Human Services claims to have fixed the most urgent problems with its new child support IT system after an independent review urged it to “immediately” prioritise upgrades.
But the department remains undecided about restarting the overhaul, which has so far cost in excess of $130 million, under the new moniker of the ‘child support transformation program’.
The extent of the long known problems with the 'Pluto' front-end SAP platform were exposed last week in a scathing independent review of the department’s botched redesign project that was only publicly released after pressure from Labor Senator Murray Watt.
The April 2018 review conducted by Deloitte, which DHS had previously refused to release to iTnews under Freedom of Information laws, found “significant functional gaps and performance challenges” with Pluto that led to “inefficiencies in day to day operations”.
"Gaps in business requirements have ultimately resulted in some functionality not being built or not fully functional to meet user expectation,” the report states, despite the design being “generally easier to learn for new staff” and having a better “look and feel”.
It was just one of the numerous problems uncovered with the project that first began in 2013 to replace the legacy ‘Cuba’ back-end system.
Deloitte recommended the department “immediately mobilise” teams to deliver “priority improvements” to Pluto, which is largely based on SAP’s CRM and ERP products.
It was to deliver new functionality “two, three-month program increments with formal go or no-go decisions at the end of each delivery cycle”.
But in the year since since the report was completed and the modernisation project began, the department says it has completed the initial priority improvements to the system recommended by Deloitte.
DHS began a six-month system modernisation project with Deloitte in June 2018 after entering a $6.5 million deal, though at the time it was not clear which system the big four consultancy was upgrading.
“The priority work from phase 1 and phase 2 to improve system performance and enhance Pluto for new customers was completed,” a spokesperson told iTnews.
“This work has focused on making the system more stable and improving its useability for both staff and customers.”
Deloitte’s recommendations for the first phase - or three month period - included delivering performance and functionality ‘quick wins’ for staff using Pluto and a proof of concept for Cuba’s code modernisation.
It was also to include the development of a business case for a project of up to two years to transform how child support service are delivered.
The second phase, on the other hand, was intended to “deliver functional enhancements to Pluto to better support general enquiries and new customers business activities”, as well as having decided on the core architectural decision for the business and technology target state.
However, it appears Cuba is still limited to processing only new child support applications, with “more than 500,000 child support customers … no using new online services”.
It also appears the department has opted for a ‘Pluto-Hybrid solution’, with Cuba still required for some tasks, though this could be a temporary solution.
“The Cuba legacy system continues to operate as the underlying processing system,” the spokesperson said.
While cheaper and faster to implement than an end-to-end SAP solution, this was not Deloitte’s preferred option.
However the department is yet to make formal ‘go/no go’ decision on further work to system Pluto – and Cuba if it decides – under the newly renamed Child Support Transformation Programme, which is expected to take up to two years to complete.
“We have deferred decisions about Cuba’s replacement for the time being,” the spokesperson said.
“Our focus has been on the initial phase, which is now complete, and we have not gone beyond this.
“Further work will be considered in the context of our budget and other operational priorities.”
While Cuba remains stable, the original intention of the child support system redesign was to decommission the system.