NZ Government ICT: Common Capabilities and All of Government Primer

620x250-PSnetworkICT Common Capabilities in New Zealand Government represent a set of services that are often mandated for uptake by Cabinet or the Government Chief Information Office in an effort to reduce cost of ICT overall while increasing quality.

This series of blogs will look at what those are, what is actually mandated (and what “mandated” means) how they work, ask whether it is working overall, and dispel some of the myths that exist in Government in relation to the services.

The ideology says that government can share their ICT services thereby saving a great deal of money. So, multiple agencies can share the same finance systems, as an example, as opposed to buying them individually. In principle, it makes sense, in practice, it’s not that easy.

In fact, Common Capability doesn’t address this ideology at all, it’s a commercial construct, not a shared ICT capability. Myth number one dispelled.

Second myth, quickly, Common Capability for ICT is not All of Government. The two are quite different. They are often lumped together in the same sentence.

The Department of Internal Affairs (DIA), Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI), and Ministry of Business, Innovation, and Employment (MBIE) have tried to take the lead in the creation of Common Capability.

Through a process called syndicated procurement each have sought to secure ICT services at a lesser cost by going to market via a Request for Proposal, choosing vendors, creating a complex legal construct with a commercial contract, and then seeking the government mandate that the service be taken up by agencies. Each contract is then handed over to DIA, if they didn’t create it to start with, for ongoing management.

Any agency that then wants to take advantage (or is forced via mandate) of that service does not have to run their own RFP, they only have to sign into a contract with the “lead agency” in order to see the price books of each supplier that made the grade, and choose one. Further, the lead agency (almost always DIA), clips the ticket on the money going from agency to provider, a small percentage is added so that DIA can manage the service.

The idea is that the cost of going to market is saved and that the service itself is cheaper. This is, of course, not always the case.

In some cases, network services for example, only one company has won the right to deliver services. So, Dimension Data, a company owned by Japanese Telecom (Nippon Telegraph and Telephone), has the exclusive right to this area, known as One.Govt, until 2019 with the right of renewal. Further, this service is mandated by Government, which means that unless there are extraordinary reasons ALL agencies MUST use that service.

In other cases, security services for example, multiple companies have won the right to deliver services. In that case, twenty one of them.

All in all, in the ICT Common Capabilities area, there are only ten services available. Given that most Government ICT Organisations have hundreds of services from large back-end systems through to desktop applications, ten services is a tiny fraction of what could be made available.

The vast majority of New Zealanders would agree that Common Capabilities make good sense. The Government CIO has made a lot of progress in this area over the past few years, however, lacks the resource and power to really turn the oil tanker.

There are a lot of myths surrounding Common Capabilities that need to be resolved. Agencies often believe that all their ICT can be serviced by them, that it easy to move to them, that it will save them money, that it will increase the quality of service, and that it represents a strategic move for the agency toward technologies like Cloud.

Further, questions need to be asked about whether the process itself puts New Zealand ICT companies at a disadvantage, or worse, locks them out from responding. Other questions that need to be examined are:

  • Do they really represent value for money?
  • Should central government be creating and managing new services in an active market?
  • How much say do agency ICT professionals have in the creation of these services?
  • Do some of the contracts represent an anti-competitive situation?
  • How can the purview of the Government Chief Information Officer (GCIO) move from a narrow focus around Common Capability to a wide focus of the ICT industry in general and what could that mean for us?
  • Are the services actually good quality?
  • Do these services actually support the long term strategy of getting Government online?
  • What other models exist internationally to achieve the aims of the GCIO that could be incorporated?
  • What Government policies can be put in place to support the ongoing development of the GCIO and Government ICT?

The next blog will analyse the existing ten services along with the other all of government services that are available today. After that, we’ll examine where the GCIO want to take those services. Finally, we’ll dispel some myths, answer those questions, and offer opinion on how the services could be transformed.

Its worth getting right, Government spends billions each year on ICT and that will significantly increase in the next five years. The focus has been one of bean counting and that has seen a sinking lid on ICT costs. Government ICT is badly underinvested in at a time when huge change is underway. We need to spend more, not less, on the right areas.


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