Western Australia Police is embarking on a major project to deconstruct its IT environment into "building blocks" that could be outsourced to run in the cloud.
Development of the strategy is already underway, with expectations the agency could start testing the market for as-a-service products as soon as "the mid to latter part of this year".
"We have some building block components of IT, and we think rather than insourcing those with WAPOL staff, [we'll move] those aspects ... to more of an as-a-service environment," Lance Martin, superintendent of the state intelligence and communications portfolio at WA Police, told iTnews.
"Our broad strategy would be to have these services provided outside of our house. It's a massive undertaking."
Speaking at the Field Service Management 2015 conference in Sydney last week, Martin said IT represented the police agency's second largest cost after staff.
Much of that cost is tied to a historical focus on standing up and managing its own systems in-house, but Martin said he was increasingly aware of the challenges in continuing that approach.
He said there was significant capital expenditure tied up in its current environment - "there wouldn't be too much change out of a quarter of a billion dollars over about 15 years, maybe less".
At a time when community expectations of policing were "escalating rapidly", meeting those needs with another round of large-scale investment in in-house IT is politically challenging.
"So what we've got is this significant tail of investment [in IT systems] that need to be replaced," Martin said.
"Do we have the capital to stand up our own tin to actually roll these systems out? [Or, if not] can we constrain the expectations of the community because of a methodology, a custom, a desire to do everything ourselves in-house?
"I'm not sure we can."
Part of the strategy work currently underway is to determine how best to uplift IT.
"We understand that there are some activities that we've got to invest in inside our house but outside that we need to look at opportunities to do things in a different way," Martin said.
"As a strategy, we're now doing the decomposition of our broader architecture, identifying those candidate activities, putting in place the standards and governance, [and factoring our] legislative requirements into our thinking," he said, adding this would "drive our procurement".
Since not all of the systems underpinning each "building block" are due to reach end-of-life at once, WA Police is using its current strategy development to work out what to do with those assets.
"Our strategy is to make the best use of our assets as part of a longer term decommissioning strategy," Martin said.
Asked if WA Police could keep the older systems online - for example, as a back-up for the as-a-service platform - Martin agreed that it "would make sense to us to have a focus on business continuity as part of that transition".
However, he noted nothing had been finalised in that respect as the strategy development was ongoing.
WA Police is the latest to pursue this type of strategy. News Corp revealed last month it had "atomised" its environment into functions that can be individually outsourced to run on a cloud-based platform.