Queensland’s Department of Housing is sinking its teeth into a multi-million dollar replacement of its core tenancy management system as SAP gets ready to withdraw extended support for its real estate management software.
The state’s property and tenancy management system was built on a heavily customised version of SAP 4.6C in 1998. The software release has been out of general support since 2007, with SAP offering extended support to the end of 2015, but no further.
In Peter Grant’s 2013 Queensland government IT audit (pdf), he estimated the project would cost $75 million to complete and described the technical condition of the existing platform as “low”.
With SAP’s deadline approaching fast, the department has started work on what it is calling its future of property and tenancy systems (FoPATS) project with haste.
In December 2014, the department inked a $23.9 million agreement with UK-based government IT specialists Northgate Public Services to deliver a specialist public housing solution to Queensland as a hosted managed service for seven years, including a three-year implementation period.
Northgate has recently finished the rollout of a similar system to one of the largest social housing organisations in London, the Geneis Housing Association.
It also delivers and supports the NSW government’s housing operations management and extended services (HOMES) system for the Department of Family and Community Services.
Late last month, Housing CIO Tim Dunn said he was relieved the agency would finally get a system that “first and foremost delivers social housing”.
“The good news from my perspective is that at its core it is a social housing solution. It is not a finance system that has been customised to be able to deliver that functionality,” he told a partners in technology briefing in Brisbane.
He described the replacement effort as a “very large project” taking up the time of roughly 60 dedicated Housing staff alongside the vendor.
The aim of the overhaul is to transform the agency's back office business processes, which had become rusted on to the legacy SAP environment.
“The business processes and practices in that housing space are largely based on methods from the 1990s,” Dunn said. “We have a very different customer base in 2015."
As spokesperson for the Department of Housing said tthe hosted solution did not mean Queensland public housing tenants would have their personal data stored overseas.
“The arrangement will see all data stored securely within Australia and will meet the Queensland government's high security standards,” he said.