As its mammoth NewCore integration project draws to a close, Auckland Council is charting a new ICT strategy - with the help of vendors.
At a sometimes humorous briefing on Friday 16 June, Auckland Council's director of ICT, Mark Denvir, said after what had been a "hell of a journey over six or seven years", council had come a long way.
That it had also managed to do so without any major outages was "incredible".
He was referring to the "shotgun wedding" that forced eight Auckland councils to merge in 2010, igniting one of the largest integration and change projects New Zealand has ever seen.
In the audience at Auckland's Aotea Centre were a who's who of technology vendors, invited to the briefing to hear about the next stage of council's transformation and to register their interest in contributing to a new ICT strategy.
In addition, Reseller News has also published an analysis of the council's club of million dollar plus ICT vendors.
Denvir said it was now time to stop and reflect. Council had already built some domain strategies but wanted to refine these with the help of interested vendors in a way that could not be achieved through a standard tender procurement process.
Denvir said the shortcomings of those processes were that they didn't mean he was asking the right questions. Council had been heavily internally focused for some years and now wanted to engage with the market.
While council had had some wins, there were still issues to face and "lots of opportunities".
"We need you guys to help with that and to be fair we can't do that in an RFP (request for proposal) process," he said.
Denvir said the aim was to support Auckland Council CEO Stephen Town's strategy to build trust in council. In that context, it was about how to help ICT build trust with communities and make processes easier with digital as a key theme.
While ratepayers money was involved, Denvir said it was not about lowest price, but achieving value for money.
"We are very keen that you come on this journey with us," he said.
The first stage was developing a fit-for-purpose ICT strategy followed by developing a validated roadmap and clear direction.
The move comes after a restructuring of council's ICT services in November, dubbed "Project Ora" and aiming to improve governance and agility.
That change created four service stacks (ERP, business systems, information applications and ICT operations) managed by their own leaders and supported by four enablers (business strategy and architecture, solution delivery, technology and governance, and innovation) again managed by by specified leaders.
Solution delivery has been moved to what Denvir described as an "outsourced resource" model. All capital investment decisions, meanwhile, will now be made by a new ICT investment group.
Future investment is likely to flow in areas of innovation - meaning internet of things, smart cities, big data and open data among other areas. To boost such development, council plans to go to market for a head of innovation in the next couple of months, Denvir said.
Heads of ICT stacks and enablement followed Denvir in presenting key issues for their own areas to the assembled vendors.
They outlined the journey so far, including moving to a single MPLS core network and two Tier 3 datacentres on an infrastructure as a services model. That new platform could be developed to enable investment in areas such as city wi-fi and increased elastic capacity.
In addition to NewCore, consolidation has also been achieved in specific areas such as GIS, data warehouse and e-commerce capability and many other consolidation projects have been initiated.
Document and record management is one area still has to be consolidated while a website consolidation is nearing completion. A similar challenge exists in decommissioning costly legacy systems that still hold data council has to retain.
However, there was a pent-up demand within council after all of the big projects received priority over the last few years. One goal is to "liberate the desktop", to automate delivery of end-user functionality and free-up device choices.
To support ambitious online service goals, single sign on and a "My account" view of all services is one desired outcome. Improved security monitoring is also required.
For development, an agile, DevOps approach is favoured with rapid prototyping and release cycles. Meanwhile, any demand for new services is likely to be met through the use of software as a service (SaaS) where possible.
The briefing was a muggy affair as air conditioning had not been turned on in the room. That prompted one council executive to joke that it was great to have all his vendors sweating in one room.
Vendors were asked to register a short brief of areas they wished to discuss by 21 June. These would be reviewed and vendors contacted by 23 June.
Follow-up consultation would occur in July and the whole vendor consultation process would be finalised by 28 July.