CIO year in review

It’s that time of year again where we reflect and think about what we want for the year ahead. This year, with all its highs and lows, was an eventful one for CIOs, with many starting to get the ball rolling on their cloud and mobility initiatives, or undergoing some kind of transformation.

CIO Australia has put together some highlights of 2013:

Cloud in government

When it comes to the role of cloud in government, system integration issues between government agencies dominated discussion.

Australian Tax Office CIO Bill Gibson criticised government ICT systems as being siloed and disparate. Australian government CIO Glenn Archer said a cloud environment has the potential to help overcome some of this silo.

"In a cloud environment, policy ownership is not such a big issue because of your ability to move the underlying application between entities is much easier,” Archer said. "And if you do need to form some kind of integration hopefully we will look to do that in a cloud environment not between physical departments of state.”

The Australian Government Cloud Computing Policy version 2.0 that Archer released in May maps out his implementation of cloud computing initiatives. This includes government exploring the feasibility of a government community cloud in early 2014 and migrating public facing websites to cloud hosting at natural ICT refresh points.

CIO of Victorian Department of Business and Innovation, Chris Gilmore, questioned whether the cloud would prove to be easier when it comes to integrating government systems across different agencies, as there are still issues in terms of interoperability, data sharing and security, and the level of complexity in different cloud offerings.

Archer said he was still cautious about moving everything into the cloud, saying legacy systems are still posing challenges for the federal government departments adopting cloud computing services.

The NSW government has shown a keen interest in adopting cloud, with the state’s CIO, Laurie Glanfield, saying it’s a “move away from spending a lot of money on infrastructure and starting to acquire a much more mobile and agile range of services to deliver the services we need to deliver to the community”.

Cloud in the enterprise

National Australia Bank moved its customer website from an internal legacy system onto the Amazon Web Services (AWS) public cloud.

The transition, which took place in September, meant the NAB website was reduced from 10,000 pages down to 2000 pages. Website information is hosted by AWS at its Sydney data centre.

“If you’re in New York, instead of traversing the Internet all the way back to Melbourne, you are viewing the site on Akamai’s cache. That gives us a sub two second performance, particularly on mobile [devices],” said general manager Thor Essman.

The move has saved almost 250 per cent on technical operating costs and reduced incoming Internet traffic into NAB’s data centres by 90 per cent.

Coles announced it was setting up a hybrid cloud environment for its Kronos-based ‘time and attendance’ workforce management application in order to quickly stand up testing and training of projects. Infrastructure deployment times can go from six weeks to one day, depending on the project, and it is forecast to save the company “millions” of dollars per year. About 600 to 700 workloads will be moved to the cloud over the next year or so, with about 30 per cent already in the cloud.

Woolworths announced plans in April to roll out its Google Apps platform to 26,000 national and state office staff. The supermarket was also looking into how it can use Google Plus, Google Drive and Google Sites to help transform “other aspects” of its business.

Dick Smith announced it would phase out its Microsoft environment and replace it with Google Apps to facilitate staff collaboration on their mobile devices, making extensive use of Hangouts, Google Groups, Talk, Drive and Docs.

Unstoppable BYOD

NAB rolled out a BYOD program to 450 staff members in September, after a trial in February.

NAB’s general manager of infrastructure, Kari Schabel, said, “Team members have mobile access on a device of their choice to workplace applications, as well as documents through a secure cloud-based document repository.

"The next stage of NAB's workplace strategy will be introducing greater choice for team members, with a select-your-own-device strategy soon to come delivering support for iOS, Android and Windows 8 smartphone devices.”

The Department of Defence created a BYOD plan this year called corporate owner and personally enabled (COPE). This will be supported by a Defence app store and users will be able to work even when they are disconnected from the network. The department is working with Apple, Samsung and BlackBerry to make it a reality.

The Department of Parliamentary Services (DPS) started developing a bring-your-own device (BYOD) policy at the beginning of the year. CIO Eija Seittenranta said the BYOD policy is being created for the department's ‘one stop shop’, which is part of a reshuffle of ICT services and staff.

Learning from past mistakes

Following Queensland Health’s $1.2 billion payroll disaster, the state government released an outline of its ‘ICT action plan’ in August, where “immediate action” is being taken to stabilise ICT systems currently used and address their risk profile.

The plan includes making the progress of IT projects visible to the community through an online dashboard. The dashboard includes information about each initiative’s investment objectives, timeframes, implementation partners and costs, as well as a link explaining why projects have a ‘red’ or ‘amber’ status.

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The Department of Human Service vowed to reduce system outages in January, as it had experienced 137 system reliability outages between October 1, 2011 and September 30, 2012.

To improve the stability of its systems, the DHS cut the number of data centres used by the department from seven to two, located within data vaults. The department used “highly resilient tier 3+ facilities” to improve service reliability.

DHS migrated its customer portal to a 64-bit environment to increase the number of concurrent sessions that its online portal can handle, improving reliability.

The department’s ICT teams were undertaking ongoing configuration of “agentless monitoring devices” through its data centres to monitor data packets. These devices are expected to provide more comprehensive monitoring of IT transactions across the department.

Reducing complexity

The Department of Defence announced it would reduce its number of computer rooms from 280 to 10, which along with the next-generation desktop project, was expected to save the department around $400 million.

“[This] moves us into more of a private cloud, virtualized environment, [which provides] more flexibility and the ability to scale [capacity] up faster than we do today,” said CIO Dr Peter Lawrence.

Defence said it was also retiring around 3000 complex legacy applications and replacing them with Oracle’s database and middleware products under a four-year, $63 million contract with the software giant.

NAB is about three years into a 10-year business transformation initiative to modernise its IT systems. The bank said it expected to save $800 million annually by reducing the complexity of its technology systems, centralising operations and support functions, and reshuffling senior management positions.

The bank also announced it would migrate 4 million customers over to its NextGen core banking platform during 2014-16.

“In parallel, we have been rationalising our product range. We will than progressively look at how we put business products onto the NextGen platform,” said NAB's enterprise services transformation group executive, Lisa Gray.

Healthcare in a digital world

SA Health rolled out the first part of the state’s largest IT project in August. The Enterprise Patient Administration System (EPAS) was deployed at Noarlunga Health Service, with the complete rollout across all hospitals to take place over the next two years.

SA Health CIO David Johnston is about seven years into $422 million, 10-year project, having spent five years implementing the underlying infrastructure to support EPAS and two years developing the e-health system.

The system is configured to work with the federal government’s personally controlled electronic health records (PCEHR) scheme, with eight metropolitan hospitals and one regional hospital now sending discharge summaries to the PCEHR.

SA Health, in partnership with Telstra, also rolled out more than 3500 beside computers across 12 of the state’s hospitals, which has been the largest rollout in the world for this type of technology.

The equipment for a bedside computer consists of a 17-inch touchscreen, keyboard and telephone, headphones and it is mounted to a wall or from the ceiling. The equipment can be bleached and cleaned for infection control.

With EPAS now rolled out at the Noarlunga hospital, the bedside computers can switch from being an entertainment package for patients to a clinical work station for healthcare workers.

The Department of Health and Ageing (DoHA) issued a tender in February to digitise more than 40 million patient records stored on old microfiche archive equipment between 1975 and 1984 before the government’s Medicare scheme was introduced.

Digitising these records reduces the risk of the department not being able to access these records when microfiche becomes obsolete. It also eliminates the risk of damage and deterioration of the microfiche media, “rendering the card unreadable due to wear the tear”, DoHA said.

Innovation

Carsales’ search engine, RyvusIQ, won the Most Innovative IT Project award in the inaugural year of CIO Australia’s CIO 100 Awards.

The online business’ engine is the brainchild of developer Michael Ridgway, and it was initially created for internal use across the company’s many sites but is now being promoted to external classified and retail organisations.

Carsales used to be previously powered by a search engine called Endeca which is now owned by Oracle. “It cost us hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not a seven-figure amount of money to implement,” said CIO Ajay Bhatia.

In 2010, Carsales.com.au users wanted to be able to search by multiple vehicle makes, models and colours. The company was restricted by the search platform it used at the time and was not able to respond as quickly as it would have liked to customer requests.

“One of the developers came to me and the CEO and said, ‘You are asking me to do all these innovative things, but I cannot do them with this search engine.’ And from customer feedback, they were also asking for all these new search innovations,” Bhatia said.

“So we commissioned six weeks of research for them to work only on the project and prove to us what they could do and build a prototype.

“Carsales-owned Quicksales website is also powered by that search engine, our own proprietary search engine, and we now are starting to sell that to other organisations,” he said.

Since implementing RyvusIQ, Carsales has experienced a 16 per cent decrease in customer support calls; and a 1 second reduction in page load times compared to the previous search engine. The company can also publish new stock online in less than 1 minute compared to 1 to 2 hours previously.

Copyright © 2013 IDG Communications, Inc.

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