Reseller News

Inside Auckland Council's emerging ICT strategy and roadmap

Auckland Council is opening its strategy tent to vendors while not closing the tent flaps to the contract opportunities that follow
  • Rob O'Neill (New Zealand Reseller News)
  • 19 July, 2018 07:00

Auckland Council is almost ready to rumble with a new ICT strategy and roadmap that it says will open opportunities for vendors large and small.

The strategy includes significant strategic and operational shifts in how ICT will be managed and delivered, including new technologies to enable hybrid cloud and the delivery of intelligence to the edge to improve services to customers.

As well as employing containerisation to make workloads movable in a hybrid cloud environment, Council has adopted VMware's Workspace One to enable the delivery of browser-based services on any device.

It is also looking to API integration to open doors to the deployment of smart, specialised software-as-a-service (SaaS) offerings, and to local vendors large and small to help make that happen.

Auckland Council's Mark Denvir, director of IT, and head of ICT and corporate procurement Aaron Donaldson gave Reseller News a heads up of what the market can expect.

After extensive consultations with providers beginning last year, the strategy was signed off by the executive in March, Denvir explained. A review of Council capital spending plans, however, has meant it is still not quite finalised.

That initial market consultation marks the first big change in Council's approach, which broadly aims to separate strategy from procurement and enable vendors who assist with developing the shape of ICT strategy to also bid for project delivery.

Donaldson said in past Council has excluded vendors who helped with the first bit from participation in second.

"That doesn’t make sense from the Council’s point of view or from Mark’s point of view," he said. "You want the best people to help you with that strategy and you want the best people to help you deliver on that strategy."

Denvir said the change in approach, towards bringing vendors inside its strategy tent, was driven by his view that Council was not getting the best value out of the way it interacted with the market.

"We were closing down ability for the market to play a more innovative role and to challenge what we are trying to do," he explained.

After an initial briefing, he said, 200-odd suppliers came in to Council for multiple focused briefing sessions from various teams across the organisation.

"It was bloody amazing," he said." We got more from that process than I anticipated and I anticipated getting quite a bit from it.

Mark Denvir (Auckland Council)
Mark Denvir (Auckland Council)

"It has made us sit back and really look at the way we are articulating what our strategy is and how we want to move forward."

With the capital spending review, Denvir decided to hold back on release of the roadmaps especially - he is now, however, ready to present them back to the executive for final sign off this month.

It will be the first time the organisations has agreed on a roadmap of what the organisation would like ICT to work on on its behalf for a good 18 to 24 month period.

"We know what’s coming and can interact with the market and give early signals of the problems or opportunities the business has asked us to work on first," he said

Whiile the process has taken longer than expected, Denvir said the quality of the output was high.

Key highlights

So what's in the strategy?

Denvir told Reseller News that based on Council's significant investment in SAP and market developments such as cloud first, SaaS and point based solutions, the organisation decided it needs to leverage the investment it has made while looking for opportunities to take business smarts and opportunities to the edge – to the customer.

That means making best use of Council's current asset base while looking at how to use the SAP "system of record" to enable API led integration, to open opportunity for the delivery of micros services, and to make interacting with council easier for both external customers and B2B partners.

Ideally much of the new development will be delivered through targeted SaaS software and therefore will be more flexible, he said.

As reported in June, Council is also revisiting its relationship with Revera, as its infrastructure as a service (IaaS) provider.

"In the last five years the market has shifted significantly with growing options for the provision of data centre services," a Council meeting agenda said at the time.

"Council has reviewed its current IaaS model with the market and believes the current model is too costly and restrictive in meeting the needs of Council."

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The Council has been spending $15 million a year with the provider until a more recent dip to $12 million in its most recent disclosures.

Denvir said the future strategy is to move to a hybrid cloud where the organisation can take better opportunity of Microsoft Azure, Amazon Web Services (AWS), Google Cloud and "whatever may come next".

Moving into hybrid cloud means, or even requires, Council to start to containerise its workloads to be able to move them to the most appropriate infrastructure: IaaS or cloud.

Council has inked an agreement with Revera to help it begin that transition, allowing it to use the benefits of the All of Government agreement and also take advantage of "pureplay" cloud providers such as AWS and Azure where appropriate.

Denvir said the first phase of that has already been executed and is delivering some reasonable cost savings.

Revera's CloudCreator orchestration platform will be used "in the first instance", he said.

"We will be going into co-design to see what the future environment will look like," he explained. "We are not closing down any opportunities. We are looking. We are doing that with Revera."

Other cloud-based opportunities are also being embraced, including a shift to Office 365 from Exchange.

Council is looking at the rest of the Microsoft productivity tools and has also moved to another pure play provider for procurement in Ariba. More recently, it deployed SAP's SuccessFactors for HR and people management.

Furthermore, the Council signed an agreement for using VMware's Workspace One to help deliver services to the end user device through the browser.

"Fundamentally, it's a good way to take advantage of what the market is developing," Denvir added.

So long, traditional procurement

Donaldson said those changes are accompanied by significant shifts in how Council procures ICT products and services.

Traditional procurement, he said, starts with go-to-market through a request for proposal. Once those are received, they are scored and then everybody "wonders why you don’t get the best result out of the market".

Council wanted to come up with processes that allow it to talk to vendors and be challenged. That means releasing high level requirement and outcomes sought and letting vendors challenge what the organisation is trying to do.

"The ICT space is evolving so quickly, we need to have that opportunity constantly," he said.

While Council's hardware procurement strategy is still under wraps, Donaldson said it’s about how to make the best use of the AoG hardware panel and use Council's scale and volume to get the best deal.

A professional and technical services procurement strategy is also due in the first half of current financial year.

Reseller News reports on the changes to procurement strategy generated some unfavourable comment on LinkedIn.

Denvir said the changes mean providers get to have their say early in the process and to help define strategy without precluding them from participating in subsequent procurements.

The aim is to protect vendors' unique IP during that early engagement to ensure they have an opportunity in the future, he said.

One complaint raised was that smaller, local developers and suppliers were not getting fair access.

"Looking at the way we want to deliver SaaS with API using SAP as the system of record, the system of innovation opens the door to all those guys that in the past have struggled to deal with us," Denvir said.

The primary requirement is what’s right to drive the best outcome for Council and ratepayers, he said.