Auckland Council: Claims no budget blowout for IT project, applies lessons from Novopay

Auckland Council: Claims no budget blowout for IT project, applies lessons from Novopay

Chief operating officer Dean Kimpton and information services head Mike Foley say governance of $155 million NewCore project includes ongoing independent review from EY.

Chief operating officer Dean Kimpton and head of information services Mike Foley of the Auckland Council say appropriate governance and management structures are in place for the $155 million NewCore project.

The project aims to consolidate core customer facing systems and processes for customer, interaction, regulatory services and rates for the former eight councils that now comprise the Auckland's ‘Supercity’.

The original business case for the project was $71 million, but this projection was revised to include, among others, $60 million in “uncovered complexity” following a due diligence and $13 million in “extended testing”, according to the IS Transformation Programme Update released by the Council.

“In terms of overall budget, there is no blowout,” says Kimpton at a press conference to explain media reports on a budget 'blowout' on the IT project. “We are sitting well within the budget itself. We understand where the cost of NewCore sits, we understand what it is going to deliver in the context of the overall IS program.”

At a high level, NewCore is focused simplifying our current systems, on standardising them and on enabling that customer experience, says Kimpton. "There is a range of things people in Auckland need to do online and we need to have a system up and running that the legacy systems won’t provide for."

Kimpton says the council also looked at the lessons from other IT projects that have “struggled” including Novopay and Queensland Health.

Kimpton says there is in place a project management and project governance structure to support a complex IT project like this. He points to the appointment of Paul Mahan, who leads the EY New Zealand IT Advisory practice, to the project.

“We are independently challenging how things are put together in the reset phase, looking at governance and making sure management and governance of it is appropriate and robust,” says Mahan, who joined Kimpton and Foley at the press conference.

Mahan says the Novopay incident has heightened the importance of his role. “We are acting on the interest of the ratepayer.”

CIO review group

Foley says in 2011 to 2012, he had a CIO review group look at the strategy and plans for the merger. The CIOs came from different industries including banking and transport, and from two organisations that were doing "large scale corporate mergers".

“I asked them to come in and review on behalf of the Auckland Council our strategy and plans to go forward,” he says, just to verify what they are doing is correct and logical for the size and scale of the council.

Read more: Three reasons government tech projects fail

He says some members of this "reference group" have since changed roles, but he will bring them back in for another review, "when and as required".

“All we are doing is rephasing and reprioritising our expenditures,” says Foley. “Overall, the budget envelope stays the same. We are just bringing aspects that we would have done downstream and accelerate them into the program... There is no budget blowout, there never has been.”

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Follow Divina Paredes on Twitter: @divinap

Read more: Novopay and Queensland Health: One-offs or symptomatic of a deeper problem in the IT industry?

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