Home Affairs chief calls for 'paradigm shift' in government IT approach

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Home Affairs chief calls for 'paradigm shift' in government IT approach

Less fragmentation, more reuse needed.

Home Affairs boss Mike Pezzullo has called out the historically fragmented nature of the government’s IT landscape and backed work to get agencies to reuse platforms wherever possible.

It comes as the government prepares to mandate select capabilities for all agencies under the whole-of-government technology architecture being drawn up by the Digital Transformation Agency.

Pezzullo told the DTA’s Digital Summit that it no longer made sense to have each agency deliver the same IT many times over, in part due to the rapidly changing cyber security landscape

“We can't possibly operate in the fragmented manner in which IT and technology acquisition, procurement and deployment has evolved over the last 25 years,” he said on Thursday.

“We need a rapid paradigm shift.”

Pezzullo said a lack of strategy, leadership and management had hindered the government’s progress with IT, but that this was now changing due to buy-in from senior leadership.

“The senior leadership of this country is of one mind. We have to get our act together, we have to come together,” he said.

“Yes, delivery, execution and business level requirements will always be delivered at the agency level - it has to be, you know your businesses in each of the agencies better than anyone.

“But in terms of common platforms, sharing, reuse, integration, procuring something for one purpose and looking for what other purposes it can be used, [there is a need to come together].”

Pezzullo said that without a unified strategy, the otherwise diligent, collaborative and conscientious work by public servants across the Australian Public Sector would be threatened.

“Unless the strategy is laid down to move forward in a unified fashion, in an integrated fashion, all of that good work will come to naught. We have to bring this together,” he said.

“Whether it's in terms of common cyber security and a common set of perimeters to protect our data,” he said.

“Whether it’s the integration of the back end of services, whether it’s modifying some software that’s been procured for one purpose and used for a completely different purpose.

“The business requirements will always be owned by the statutory officer or the secretary of the department that is responsible for that function.

“It's whether we can pool our resources, pool our technology, pool our capability.”

Government-wide architecture

Pezzullo’s comments followed a wide-ranging update on the DTA’s progress with the architecture by chief Randell Brugeaud, who said the reuse of select capabilities would be expected from next year.

“Some capabilities will be mandatory, and some will be optional,” he told the Digital Summit.

“Capabilities such as identity and cyber security controls are emerging as standards and blueprints that must be followed.”

The DTA has been investigating what a government-wide IT architecture might look like with Canberra’s biggest service delivery agencies since it was tasked with doing so in late 2019.

The architecture is aimed at improving cross-agency design and investment decisions around technology, and is happening alongside an audit of the government’s IT.

Brugeaud said that a “flexible reuse framework will allow agencies to share patterns, platforms and services”.

He described a pattern as a “typical design artefact or the sharing of a skill or commercial arrangement”, while a platform is “software and systems with support to build a new instance of those systems”.

A service, on the other hand, is “receiving an end-to-end service, including technology and operations, from another entity”.

“When an agency designs, builds or transforms a common function, this provides an opportunity to turn them into products that can be reused, integrated and scaled across government,” he said.

“Doing common things in a more integrated, joined up way is far better for people and businesses who deal with government, and much more efficient for government as well.”

Prime candidates for mandatory reuse include the Australian Taxation Office’s myGovID digital identity credential, as well as the Department of Home Affairs’ permissions capability platform.

Brugeaud said a number of other frameworks would also accompany the whole-of-government architecture, including a “platform operation model” and “orchestration and integration framework and standard”.

“We’ll deliver a government business model, which will provide better information on how government works, where capability limitations may exist and where we might direct our future investments,” he said.

“We’ll also deliver a platform operation model, which will provide a common understanding of the need for strategies, roadmaps and sustainable funding models to ensure services are reliable and support ongoing maintenance and enhancement efforts.

“We’ll also deliver a platform and service catalogue to make it easier to discover the platforms and services that exist across government.

“And we’ll deliver an orchestration and integration framework and standard, which will provide a common approach for connecting services, capabilities and platform across government to deliver a more seamless user experience.”

“All of these deliverables are currently being progressed and will be available by March 2021.

“For agencies, it will be easier to discover and reuse what’s already there, and build new things in a way that are reusable by others.

“And for government it will be easier to prioritise and select projects that will create the greatest value, and it will allow us to deliver more rapidly and effectively.”

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