1/8/2012 Note: I wrote this postÂ over three years ago and never published it because of concerns I had about the content and it’s affect on my job. I now no longer work at Auckland Council and reading through the comments below, while some ring true (specifically those about the strength of the team and the in-house knowledge) others seem insanely naive (i.e. those about ratepayers not needing to worry about IT and the council having the right people in place). It may just be the normal resentment of an employee who has left an organisation, but I believe there are some serious problems within the Auckland Council IT group and they start at the top.
Until something changes there, I think ratepayers have every right to worry about how their rates are being spent on IT.
As a member of the Auckland City Council IT department, and someone passionate about blogging, I really couldn’t have a blog and let this article go by without comment.
Firstly, the same caveat applies to this post as my original Auckland Super Council post.
Everything expressed in this post is my personal opinion and in no way represents a comment from the Auckland City Council, management or even me in my professional context.
So, in case you haven’t read the article listed above which was written for the dominion post, here are a few quotes:
Merging council IT systems to create an Auckland “supercity” will cost the best part of $200 million and could take eight years to complete, according to consultancy firm Deloitte.
“It’s going to take about four to eight years. If you look at large complex mergers, such as the Fonterra merger – they merged a long time ago and they’re still slowly rolling different parts of the business on to other parts of systems. This is going to take at least that long.”
That second quote was an interesting one for me, as I was involved in two of the projects which formed part of the Fonterra consolidation during my early years as a consultant.
There is one clear difference between Fonterra and Auckland Council.Â Fonterra was a new organisation formed from disparate and much smaller groups.Â The decision was made to build a new company from the ground up with new processes and systems.
When they implemented the system I was involved with, they implemented all of the newest and most advanced functionality.Â They got in the best consultants, and gave them free reign to design and build a solution for them.Â There was little or no design direction from Fonterra internally, because that maturity simply did not exist.
Within the councils, and specifically within Auckland CIty Council, that is not the case.Â We have systems that have been in place for up to 10 years (and are still industry leaders) and a strong foundation of processes and technology.
We also have a great IT department.Â We are light years ahead of what Fonterra had, and with the added strength of the other councils, must have one of the strongest IT capabilities in-house in New Zealand.
So this doesn’t need to be another Fonterra.Â Maybe we will spend $200 million, but if we do, we need to make sure that we get great value for money.Â This is a great opportunity to build an IT capability the Auckland Council can be proud of, and which will form the foundation for Auckland’s innovative future.
Eight years?Â There’s only one sector of New Zealand’s economy that will benefit from an eight year IT project and I can’t see the need to spend excessive amounts of ratepayers money filling the pockets of New Zealand IT consulting organisations.Â Even making the right decisions about consulting firms can save millions as was shown at Fonterra where they paid millions more than necessary to have NZ consultants on their projects because they were being ‘primed’ by the vendor.
My fear is that it could easily take eight years if the project takes the wrong attitude to the processes of requirements gathering, solution design and implementation.Â I’m all for meeting business requirements (it’s why we’re here after all) but you cannot let the business decide what solutions they want, because they’ll often get it wrong, and spend millions of dollars trying.
So what am I saying?
Auckland ratepayers should not be concerned about IT.Â This will not be another Fonterra, we have the right people in place and if the new interim CEO puts the right structures in place, we will have our voice.Â Whether we spend $200 million or not is less important than the fact that you should feel confident that we will get value for money for the ratepayers of Auckland.