Revealed: NBN Co's IT strategy

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Revealed: NBN Co's IT strategy
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Saving taxpayer dollars

NBN Co, the company building Australia's next generation national broadband network, is not your average start-up.

While NBN Co has no shortage of funds coming through from the Federal Government, the company's management must be sensitive to the political fallout that would ensue from cost blowouts on IT projects.

With that in mind, the company builds few applications in-house.

NBN Co CIO Claire Rawlins told iTnews that more than 90 percent of NBN Co’s applications are commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) technologies.

The company's 700-odd staff use the Windows 7 operating system, Microsoft’s Office suite, and Oracle enterprise resource planning (ERP) and customer relationship management software.

NBN Co has also contracted IBM to integrate operational and business support systems (OSS/BSS) from various software providers, in order to provide access seekers with an end-to-end view of the network.

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As a government-owned company, enterprise architecture head Bill Barnett said NBN Co’s focus was on “efficient use of taxpayer money”.

“I would say that we’re focused on buying everything we can, and building is really a last resort,” he told iTnews.

“It’s a question of are we in the business to be building a lot of applications, or does it make more sense for us to select some COTS applications and use low-cost, high-quality external partners to get them delivered.”

Rawlins said NBN Co strived for out-of-the-box functionality wherever possible. In-house development was undertaken only where security, flexibility and speed-to-market were significant concerns.

“We only have a few select systems done in-house,” she said. “We’ve retained our portal (online services) capability in-house because we see that as a way to differentiate our product offerings.

“Obviously we retain architectural control in-house, security in-house, and our core operations in-house.”

Barnett said NBN Co’s business and functions were “intentionally straightforward”, despite its unique position as a wholesale-only, open-access telecommunications service provider.

Being a $36 billion start-up company also allowed NBN Co to design processes around “leading products”, without being encumbered by legacy tools, he said.

“In a normal company you have to deal with all these legacy businesses processes and practices that you have to figure out how to customise around,” Barnett explained.

“We’ve had the luxury of saying: let’s pick some leading products in the market and let’s align our business around those, rather than the other way around.”

Read on for a discussion of NBN Co's use of cloud computing...

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