Lessons from DEEWR's shared services project

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Lessons from DEEWR's shared services project
Susan Monkley, DEEWR.

Flexibility matters.

Shared services projects require a willingness to expect the unexpected and set aside traditional deadlines, says Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations technology manager Susan Monkley.

Take the Australian Parliament Workflow Solution, a multi-year shared services exercise under development by DEEWR.

The agency was tasked with building the PWS after developing its own workflow solution (the PDMS), which was adapted for use by 6000 users across four agencies including DEEWR, Defence, FaHCSIA (families, housing, community services & indigenous affairs) and the Department of Innovation.

Turning the PDMS system that worked for four agencies into a solution that works for 41 agencies is another challenge altogether.

DEEWR, charged with delivering the solution on behalf of the Australian Government Information Management Office (AGIMO), delivered a functioning system to users in June, but several agencies are running behind the original schedule set to adopt the solution.

Monkley said the exercise had taught her not to have unrealistic expectations when implementing shared services initiatives and that worrying too much about arbitrary deadlines doesn’t help.

“The general response has been that agencies really like it, see the benefit of it,” she said.

But there is no one ‘best practice’ approach to system implementation.

Some agencies, which already had systems in place, had the necessary processes in place for a relatively smooth adoption. But those coming from paper-based processes needed a very different path.

“It’s not about the IT – it’s about the business change,” she said.

At the Vanguard

Monkley, scheduled to give a keynote on shared services at the CIO Strategy Summit, said that an open and flexible approach to shared services adoption had led to some unexpected benefits.

Developers of the PWS had been working on a new means of authenticating users, before DEEWR considered use of Vanguard, an existing government solution developed by the Department of Innovation.

Vanguard offered a user authentication solution used by the likes of Innovation, Human Services and the ATO to manage and validate digital credentials to secure transactions between businesses and government agencies.

Vanguard, as an existing provider of authentication systems for Gov-To-Gov transactions, “have the required processes, infrastructure configuration, and procedures to manage a federated authentication system,” Monkley said.

“Whilst DEEWR could have hosted the authentication requirements for PWS, we realised early in the planning stages that the ramifications of this type of Federated authentication had much greater potential.”

Once agencies connected to the Vanguard Federated Authentication Service, they were able to not only to access PWS, but use the same mechanisms to share applications hosted in other government agencies.

“Using Vanguard has allowed for single sign-on – so a user logging in to the PWS uses the same username and password of their existing systems,” Monkley said. “It can be implemented such that the user won’t have to re-type those credentials every time. If they are logged in to their agency’s environment, there will be handshake through to the PWS without an additional security layer being visible to the user.”

This also saved DEEWR’s PWS from needing to directly support certificate management and authentication for all 41 agencies.

Incorporating Vanguard into the PWS “demonstrates the value of shared services – and of not trying to do something new or different for the sake of it,” Monkley said.

Susan Monkley will speak about "Centralised Workflow: Managing Change and multiple playersat the 4th CIO Strategy Summit, 20-22 August, QT Gold Coast.

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