What is the role of Information & Technology Services within the Department of Justice?
We are a service provider, supporting the organisation in what they do, which includes all services being provided to citizens through the justice portfolio. We do that via direct services or indirectly through relationships we have with other service providers.
Do you collaborate on projects with other Departments of Justice?
At the moment, we are focusing on collaboration across government, say with the department of health. There are ongoing conversations between the CIOs of different departments through forums hosted by organisations like CenITex.
There’s a lot of talk about big data. Are you using data to make decisions?
We are developing capability for evidence based, informed decision making in the organisation. The Justice department is one of the large operational departments within the Victorian public sector, incorporating a broad range of services under a common umbrella. There are several initiatives at the moment for increased internal data sharing, across portfolios within the department.
There will be an increased focus on data sharing across various departments and portfolios within government. Driven by government initiatives and recommendations from the Family Violence Royal Commission.
You come from a banking background. Are there technologies you have worked with in the past that you would like to implement here?
We are at the leading edge in some of the things we are doing. Our use of cloud based services and Devops approach is ahead of the pack. But we have some legacy systems, which are quite old. Changing or upgrading them is dependent on business need and the current priorities of government.
The primary driver for corporates is return on investment and shareholder value. Is this technology or process going to give me a competitive advantage in the market enabling me to increase profits? In government, the decision is driven by the authorising environment. The questions are how does it align to public policy, to the capability of the organisation and to public needs.
What parameters do you use to evaluate success? What outcomes are you looking to achieve?
The government sets the priorities and the departments have to find the best way to fulfil them, tracking and measuring results. Benefit realisation is key. If we are doing a system upgrade, we have to ask how does it contribute to this government initiative to improve services.
Is cloud an important technology for you?
Yes, some of the vendors now aren’t selling their software to host it on-site. Their proposals come in the shape of software-as-service. We need to be able to adapt and use that.
As I said, some of the things we have done in the online service area are at leading edge.
We are using full automation for releases into production. We deal with the code libraries, hit the button and then the building of the sites, testing, publishing into production is all automated. It’s the Devops approach to truly leverage the scalability and flexibility benefits of a cloud based provider of infrastructure. If you approach it with old-school thinking about building servers and things like that, then you cannot realise the full benefits from the new technology.
What are you doing to protect your data?
Everything we possibly can! We need to have robust processes and structure in place for security. The information we hold is valuable to a number of individuals, for probably not good reasons. We get criticised sometimes, for being overly cautious. But there is no such thing as being overly cautious in this space and we would always prefer to err on the side of caution.
How do you think your department will look like in 5-10 years and how would it have evolved with the technology of the day?
We are moving towards a mobile workforce and place-based services.
How do we enable people to get out of the traditional office, move around and go to where the demand is, where the services are actually being consumed? We need to have our workforce at the relevant places, be agile enough to move staff to meet the changing needs of the community.
What are some of the challenges you see in ICT transformation?
There is always a desire to look for off-the shelf solutions from the market. When you try to implement a system bought from the market, an internal process might not match up to the system. In the corporate world, you would ask if the internal process is profit-making. If the answer is yes, then it might be worth modifying the new system to support what I do now. If not, then I will change what I do internally to match the system.
Within government, processes are driven by legislation and regulation. If there is a discrepancy between the system and the legislation, do we change the legislation or the system? The experience to date usually is changing the system. Our actions are determined to a large extent by the framework of legislation and regulation. While there is alignment between the states, there are still vast differences at the system and process levels. This often results in a need for complex configuration changes with true “off-the-shelf” products.