Solnet Solutions, the winner of the Workplace Collaboration category and also the supreme winner in the IBM Business Partner Awards, secured both prizes to recognise its groundbreaking work for the Inland Revenue Department, using IBM’s WebSphere Portal technology.
Driven by predetermined IRD business requirements and an immovable legislative deadline, the goal was to deploy online services for KiwiSaver members, whose growth in numbers reflect the unforeseen success of the scheme.
Brett Arthur, general manager northern region, Solnet Solutions, says the immovable deadline for the KiwiSaver element of the project was one of the biggest challenges for the development and integration company. “Because of KiwiSaver, it was a fixed delivery date and it had to be up and running by 1 July, 2007. The next big challenge was availability. It had to be a very robust system, with uptime of 99.9997 percent. That means it can only be down for something like 17 minutes a year.”
Nevertheless, Solnet decided completion within the timeframe was achievable. “It was challenging but obviously not impossible,” Arthur says.
Inland Revenue wanted to display different branding for different business contexts, requiring a distinct look and feel for both its Kiwisaver and IR Online Services websites.
A new portal infrastructure was proposed to enable Inland Revenue to move from its dependence on legacy systems, provide enhancements to existing collaboration tools and remove barriers to collaboration.
In exploring the available options, Solnet and the IRD decided the idea of portals warranted further investigation, since they would offer future strategic benefits, following on from the initial KiwiSaver deployment. Solnet engaged as a partner with IBM and Inland Revenue to implement the portals.
The Inland Revenue portal allows its Kiwisaver, IR Online and other websites to be hosted on the same infrastructure, use the same security services and back-end enterprise applications. The infrastructure uses virtual portals to provide interface separation, so that new business contexts are presented in their own virtual portal and each of these provides the IRD’s required look and feel.
Arthur says the virtual portal concept fulfilled the IRD’s needs because as well as the immediate requirement for the KiwiSaver component, it will become a platform for a much wider range of services in the future. “On the same infrastructure there will be multiple portals and there are a number of projects envisaged to provide further services for accountants, tax agents and a wide range of online services.” Further online services will be rolled out over time, he says. “When you go to the Inland Revenue online, some of the online services are on the same platform. It’s not a standalone system; it’s extensible.”
Although Solnet’s main measure for project success at the outset was to meet the KiwiSaver deadline, Arthur says the potential it has created for future initiatives has presented the IRD with a number of additional benefits, which will be vital in achieving its target of servicing 80 percent of all customer transactions online by 2010. It will ultimately become the largest enterprise portal in the southern hemisphere, used by nine million discrete tax entities in New Zealand, from individual taxpayers to GST-registered companies and tax agents. “It’s a great success story, and it’s going to provide a lot of additional online services,” says Arthur.
Katrina Troughton, MD of IBM New Zealand, says what really impressed the judges about the supreme winner was its innovative use of the technology. “The project is arguably world-class, and that scale and scope is a challenge to deliver at any time in New Zealand.” Troughton says Solnet demonstrated “incredible flexibility” in meeting its client’s needs. “The IRD had some challenges and told us about the need to change the core business rules on the day they were meant to go live. Solnet just worked through that and delivered. That level of commitment to the client’s success and the clear level of trust and confidence they built into that project was really impressive, but it was a tough choice.”