Inside the ACT govt's drive to remove app duplication

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Inside the ACT govt's drive to remove app duplication

Home-grown platform promises cost savings, strategic insights.

The ACT government's shared services agency has built its own application portfolio management platform for use by the territory's entire public sector in an effort to cut down on duplication and overspend.

Shared Services ICT has just put its in-house developed APM service into production for agencies across the territory to use and keep track of their application landscape.

The bespoke solution was built using AngularJS, Google's Material Design, and Microsoft's Web API platform by seven internal technologists using the scrum methodology.

It integrates with the shared services agency's ServiceNow IT service management (ITSM) management platform - which houses Shared Services ICT- supported systems - to sync changes to applications and alert agencies to outages, upgrades, or patches within 15 minute increments.

The team built the platform as a minimum viable product and is adding new functionality based on feedback from users.

While providing strategic insight into an agency's entire application environment, the platform also enables territory CIOs to track and manage metadata - like upgrade schedules, licensing, criticality, support etc - around their business applications.

"It's a consistent, contemporary platform for ACT government directorates to manage their business applications in terms of operational application management, licensing, support models, and strategic investment decisions," Shared Services ICT application development manager Hamish Armstrong told iTnews.

Prior to the introduction of the tool, ACT agencies were using spreadsheets and inconsistent databases to manage their application portfolios.

Not only did that result in problems like duplication and unnecessary overspend within agencies, it also meant there was no whole-of-government view of ACT's application environment.

It became "more and more apparent" that a standard application portfolio management tool was needed, Armstrong said.

However, when the shared services agency went to the market for solutions, it baulked at the $1 million+ it would be required to spend for a platform that fit its needs.

"So with the support of senior management, executive and directorate CIOs we proposed a proof of concept with a small amount of funding in comparison to see if we could build something of value," Armstrong said.

The proof of concept was completed on November 16, and the platform is now in production with the ACT government's seven major directorates.

The 700-odd applications that Shared Services ICT supports have been loaded into the platform, and it's now up to individual agencies to input all their other externally supported applications, which Shared Services ICT expects will come in at a "substantial" number.

A handful of agencies have committed to having their entire landscape input by February, Armstrong said, and his team is expecting all the ACT government's applications will be loaded in by mid-next year.

The whole-of-government application portfolio is being overseen by the Office of the Chief Digital Officer (OCDO), which has the job of encouraging department leaders to adopt the initiative.

The OCDO is currently the only body that has a whole-of-government view into the platform; departmental leaders can only see their own environments, and Shared Services ICT only has a view of the apps it supports.

However, the 'project front door' team - which acts as a single point of contact for agencies to initiate projects with Shared Services ICT - will soon have the same ability, allowing it to help agencies reuse or extend pre-existing capability, rather than buying new services.

"Unless [agencies] know of something that exists already from their relationship network, they assume nothing of that capability is in use," Armstrong said.

"So they'll go and look at new options and create potentially another duplication."

Shared Services ICT is expecting the platform will result in a significant application rationalisation drive within agencies. 

"This will enable them to identify potential cost savings - why do I have five CRM systems providing the same function? - and which applications are providing value and should be invested in, as well as those that should be decommissioned," Armstrong said.

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