After three months surveying his new responsibilities, the NSW government’s new CIO and director-general of the Department of Finance and Services (DFS) Laurie Glanfield has zeroed in on the cultural slugglishness getting in the way of the state’s service delivery vision.
Glanfield told members of the Institute of Public Administration Australia on Monday that he believed resistance to change within a notoriously conservative public service is the number one obstacle to the uptake of new and enabling technologies such as cloud computing.
“I think cultural change will be our greatest challenge,” he said.
“The government has made it very clear that we want to transform the way we deliver our services.
“At the moment our people have had a long history of delivering these in a particular way but now they will have to start thinking differently.”
Glanfield said his own department, DFS, should play a greater role in holding agency’s hands as they move through the process so that this institutional resistance does not sabotage his IT vision.
“I see DFS taking a much stronger role,” he said.
“We should not just be a central agency propagating policy and saying this is what you have to do and this is what you can’t do, but rather we need to work with agencies so they can truly understand the benefits available to them and make sure they don’t drop behind.”
DFS is due release a cloud practice guide for agencies in early December, mirroring the advisory rather than prescriptive approach taken by its federal peers in the Australian Government Information Management Office.
The guide will be informed by what they have learned from five ‘cloud pilots’ being run in various public sector bodies.
In particular, Glanfield and his DFS colleagues said they have been paying close attention to the tough-love approach to legacy business practices adopted by Trade and Investment CIO David Kennedy as he squeezed his own diverse agency into a new out-of-the-box ERP platform.
Kennedy’s advice to prospective cloud adopters, especially those within the NSW government, was not to get caught up in the myth that cloud migrations are easy.
“Change is difficult no matter what the change is,” he said. “There will always be resistance and CIOs need to take that into account”.
“In some ways it will be easier because you don’t have to worry about the infrastructure, but nonetheless moving from Groupwise to Microsoft Exchange is still going to be a complex pain in the whatever,” he said.
The remaining pilots, parallel proofs of concept of cloud email and desktop-as-a-service within ServiceFirst, have received “varied feedback” to date, according to DFS executive director Pedro Harris.
“We are starting to see these products easily stood up, but there are lessons we still have to learn in the areas of vendor management, record management and transportability of licences,” he said.
Don McLean, whose company Fronde was contracted to carry out a three-month trial of Google Apps within ServiceFirst said he had received “very fair evaluation” of the technology from the DFS project team.
“They are now closing out the proof of concept with a recognition that cloud works,” he said, adding that he thinks that not all public servants are apprehensive about moving to a new way of doing their job.
“Anecdotally we heard that some people involved in the proof of concept had to be dragged kicking and screaming back to the old technology, because they saw what the alternative was.”