Finish line in sight, fate hurls a wild-card at IRD's final transformation rollout

Finish line in sight, fate hurls a wild-card at IRD's final transformation rollout

1000 Inland Revenue staff forced to relocate out of central Wellington building ahead of final sprint this coming week.

Greg James (Inland Revenue)

Greg James (Inland Revenue)

Credit: Supplied

For a week, starting at 3pm tomorrow, Inland Revenue's online systems will be out of commission as the department completes its $1.46 billion transformation.

Adding to its already substantial transformation challenges, the department will have to end its seven year journey displaced from a key office in the capital while also dealing with COVID-19 pandemic restrictions.

Inland Revenue spokesman Richard Owen said the Inland Revenue Department (IRD) was making the final system changes now so it could make any changes needed to support New Zealanders through COVID-19 and so it could stop using two IT systems.

“Completing business transformation now means it will be less risky and less complex than trying to make change to help those affected by the pandemic while running two systems,” Owen said. 

“IRD is making the upgrades over a public holiday, so systems are down for fewer business days.”

As well as being forced to work remotely due to the pandemic, a challenge IRD has managed well in the past, around 1000 staff had to be relocated after a seismic report in July found deficiencies in the department's Asteron Building accommodation in Wellington.

Pressure on the project forced the department's transformation team to request a delay to its final update to Cabinet, from December 2021 to February 2022. The final release will deliver new child support systems and an upgrade of online services to all users.

"The move to alert level 4, combined with the closure of the Asteron Building, has been very disruptive to the upcoming final release," Greg James, deputy commissioner transformation, wrote to the ministers of finance and revenue at the end of August.

"While we are mitigating the effects as well as we can, delivery risk has nevertheless increased."

Warning of an elevated risk of delays, James warned  progress on the final release might not follow the pattern seen in previous rollouts.

The project risk rating remained amber, on a green/amber/red traffic-light scale and performance to budget was also on track.

Business simulation testing in August was delayed by a week but no major issues were identified. Conversion of data from the old system to the new was ongoing but described as "well advanced".

Mandatory training for staff working with child support began in August and continued through to this month. "Masterclasses" were also run on upcoming changes to online services.

James warned child support was a complex product and served a vulnerable customer base. The scale of the changes could "create reactions."

On another front, IRD reported it was confident of being able to shift its legacy payroll system out of Unisys' local datacentres, which are being closed, and into the cloud. 

In 2019, IRD selected Accenture to deliver a new $20.2 million enterprise support system based on Oracle's cloud software. However, under time pressure, the department opted to stick with SAP for payroll.

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