Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: Someone has to be accountable for this

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  • peter mclennan,

    From Computerworld, for further reading...

    from March, Copied SAP system cuts costs for Auckland Transport

    from Sept last eyar... Supercity’s $60m-plus SAP system under scrutiny

    AK Central • Since Nov 2006 • 147 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen,

    Why does it have to be new?

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 3108 posts Report Reply

  • Christopher Dempsey,

    Speaking as an elected rep... I knew this was on the horizon, not because I had any inside knowledge, but because of knowledge in general about IT systems, and the difficulties of mashing them together. INCIS anyone?

    I was predicting $400m or so (double the rumoured $200m), and I wasn't far off. The figures for IT integration bandied about last year were laughable by any sane and reasonable person. I'm slightly bemused by the sense of outrage - a situation like this wasn't in the offing??

    The only thing I can realistically offer is a) you can bet your bottom dollar that staff will be doing everything possible to reduce such cost and I also expect a fair bit of no. 8 wiring activity to be undertaken and b) ratepayers will have a very good system at the end of the day. For example, apparently the old Papakura DC were operating on old Windows 98 or whatever that version was.

    Doffing said hat...

    Parnell / Tamaki-Auckland… • Since Sep 2008 • 635 posts Report Reply

  • Steve Barnes, in reply to ,

    Why does it have to be new?
    It doesn't.

    I was going to make the same point. SAP can talk to SAP, Databases can be merged and integrated. If anything I would have thought there would be redundancy created by merging the existing Council infrastructure. But...

    “[The council] decided to get consultants in and build the SAP system from the ground up, ignoring all the existing systems and not leveraging any of that investment at all,” says one source. “The $70 million is a bill for Auckland’s rate payers.”

    This is appalling.

    The wireless north ;-) • Since Dec 2006 • 4441 posts Report Reply

  • Tim Michie,

    Thanks for listening Rodney. Changes done at speed are hardly efficient with making up for what was missed. And no, losing your job doesn't cover the responsibility needing to be taken for this, although I'm sure National will be happy scapegoat you, you did choose to act the goat.

    Yet more cause for concern to the rest of New Zealand with Regional Government Reform coming to a local authority near you.

    Auckward • Since Nov 2006 • 522 posts Report Reply

  • Lucy Stewart, in reply to Christopher Dempsey,

    For example, apparently the old Papakura DC were operating on old Windows 98 or whatever that version was.

    I shudder to think at what they were operating '98 on.

    You're otherwise right, though: the fact that this would end up costing massively more than predicted should be totally unsurprising to anyone who works with IT. I suspect there was quite a bit of "but they're just hooking up computers, how hard can it be?" going on.

    Amherst, MA • Since Nov 2006 • 2087 posts Report Reply

  • Jonty,

    @Matthew poole:
    <Rodney’s gone already, which spares him an ignominious ejection, but he was only the puppet master in this farce.>

    No, Rodney was only the puppet. The puppet masters are the gang waiting in the wings – waiting to privatise Auckland's assets – a process delayed only by Len Brown's trumping the robotic Banks. But they haven't gone away. Just waiting and watching for Brown to fall flat on his face with this cock-up.

    Katikati • Since Mar 2007 • 100 posts Report Reply

  • Richard Aston,

    INCIS anyone?

    Christopher , I was working at IBM when the INCIS nightmare was on - the general consensus was too many layers of decision makers – in the case of INCIS, Treasury and the various layers of Police. They didn’t seem to talk to each other, crossed over on decisions etc.
    I wonder if that is the case here ? Poor quality or muddled decision making.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 421 posts Report Reply

  • Richard Aston,

    Jonty, please tell us more about the puppet masters waiting in the wings.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 421 posts Report Reply

  • Raymond A Francis,

    I am sorry but when I hear

    It will cost the Auckland Council more than half a billion dollars over eight years to build new computer systems to conduct its business

    I wonder what was it is really going to cost and just how much extra is being stuck to the rate payers
    Remembering an IT expert sucked 20 million plus out of the Otago Health Board and no one noticed!
    So question; how much was it going to cost just to keep the old structure going and was it going to hell in a handcart anyway?
    Windows 98, give me strength, sounds like someone was keeping costs down for a short time gain

    45' South • Since Nov 2006 • 521 posts Report Reply

  • nzlemming, in reply to Richard Aston,

    . They didn’t seem to talk to each other, crossed over on decisions etc.

    I was at IRD (as well as running GOVIS) while the INCIS cockup was unravelling and we watched with interest. From the outside, it seemed that IBM proposed a system that, while ambitious for the time, could have been delivered if frozen at the moment of commission, but creeping featuritis became endemic as various entities sought to add "just one more thing" and no-one was prepared to say no. Also it was a time of rapidly changing technologies (eg the surge of TCP/IP overtaking data communications while we were debating the merits of X.400 and GOSIP) that some people wanted to bolt on to INCIS and others wanted to keep as far away as possible from.

    Waikanae • Since Nov 2006 • 1701 posts Report Reply

  • Rob S,

    As Craig is wont to point out most local body politics reporting by our "leading paper" fall into Mayoral candidate pissing matches or whatever bee Brian Rudman has in his bonnet.
    Finding and pursuing these types of jiggery pokery shouldn't be that difficult rather than half page photos of Pippa Middletons arse how about spending some time and money with some thoughtful, inciteful analysis of matters that may be dry but have far reaching consequences for Aucklands inhabitants?
    I had an idea all of this was waiting in the wings not because the Herald brought it to my attention but through this website.[full credit RB]
    National gave this man carte blanche to pursue his agenda and should have to justify the resulting mess to everyone. A rush job by a moron in a hurry.
    Where is the accountability?

    Since Apr 2010 • 64 posts Report Reply

  • nzlemming, in reply to Raymond A Francis,

    So question; how much was it going to cost just to keep the old structure going and was it going to hell in a handcart anyway?

    Having a single system for a particular function across an organisation is a good thing, in terms of maintenance costs, training, flexible job skills etc. But you plan for it, and implement it carefully and after much thought. Hide and company are used to popping down to Dick Smiths for a new copy of Word and they appear to imagine that big software implementations work much the same way. Hence the big bang approach from a single vendor.

    A number of the IT people from the various councils saw this coming and lined up for the redundancy, and I can't blame them for that.

    Waikanae • Since Nov 2006 • 1701 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz,

    I've got this cognitive gap around what SAP is actually doing for $600mln.

    I've worked at firms that use SAP, and it provides a workable, if clunky, way to enter expenses and timesheets, order stuff and do payroll - all those sort of functions. I'm prepared to believe it also keeps track of assets and produces all manner of useful accountancy reports.

    But that's not much more than a big Xero. Xero costs $30 a month to run a one person business - a crude equation would suggest Auckland Council, which has 8,000 employees, spending $240,000 a month, or $3 million a year. That's a couple of orders of magnitude away from $800 million.

    $600 million is 4,000 IT people paid and housed for a year. For way less than that money, I reckon NZ could build a SAAS system from scratch that could run all the local authorities (I assume they all have much the same business model - collect rates, fines and fees - provide services).

    I know there are issues with scaling, but this just sounds like hundreds of consultants and business analysts chasing each others tails while 20 or so people do the real work.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 4209 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Lucy Stewart,

    You’re otherwise right, though: the fact that this would end up costing massively more than predicted should be totally unsurprising to anyone who works with IT. I suspect there was quite a bit of “but they’re just hooking up computers, how hard can it be?” going on.

    Two points:

    1. The bill is 10 times what we were promised it would be by the Minister of Local Government. I am firmly of the opinion that a lot of people knew this was going to be the case. The public was told something else altogether.

    2. People with an up-close view of this process expressed concern, felt the process could have been conducted much more efficiently, and were sidelined by Hide's appointees.

    3. $300 million in unbudgeted IT costs in building a system for the Auckland Council to carry out its functions. I'm paying for that.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 17938 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to nzlemming,

    A number of the IT people from the various councils saw this coming and lined up for the redundancy, and I can’t blame them for that.

    Quite.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 17938 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel,

    Why does it have to be new?

    always room for the
    DOS-enchanted and
    broken dataed...

    ...and as long as everyone
    keeps up with the paperwork
    what could possibly
    go wrong?

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 4197 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Rob S,

    National gave this man carte blanche to pursue his agenda

    More than that, as Russell notes - and as Hide himself was at pains to point out along the way. The cabinet and especially the Nats' inner sanctum were an integral part of the decision-making (including appointing the ATA). And the way this was done fits their shared ideology to a tee.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 15715 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Rob S,

    Finding and pursuing these types of jiggery pokery shouldn't be that difficult rather than half page photos of Pippa Middletons arse

    Not that it need be an either-or proposition..

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 15715 posts Report Reply

  • Neil Morrison,

    The Royal Commision estimated total cost of amalgamation at between $120 million and $240 million, Hide had it at $150m.

    so maybe quite a few people were wearing rose-tinted glasses, including the orginal proponents of reform.

    But isn't this now all the hands of the new council? If they think this is too much surely they can do something about it. They're the ones voting for this expenditure, they must think it's the best option.

    Since Nov 2006 • 932 posts Report Reply

  • Hamish.MacEwan, in reply to ,

    There is no fucking clue at high political levels about IT integration and how quickly it balloons into an unrecognisable monster, consuming every dollar in its path.

    Not much chance then of this coming to pass?:

    A recent Treasury report looked at the cost of government agencies' back office functions and concluded they could save between $230 million and $425 million a year.

    The savings would come from greater sharing, standardisation and automation of back office processes and systems.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 10 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Neil Morrison,

    so maybe quite a few people were wearing rose-tinted glasses, including the orginal proponents of reform.

    I don’t think “shit happens” anywhere near covers this. They sidelined existing IT management and spent millions on consultants who told them to spend many more millions of dollars – and they didn’t tell us that.

    Rob O’Neill’s editorial comment that accompanied the Computerworld story last year is essential reading:

    There are signs building of a serious backlash against the way the Auckland Supercity is being implemented. Whether it’s the way executives are being recruited or the way the Council-controlled organisations are being reorganised, it looks increasingly as if the entire effort is being driven out of Wellington — and that’s making Aucklanders uncomfortable.

    Arguably, all of these new structures should be decided by the new elected council and not implemented before elections are even held. At the very least, the new Council should be able to undo some of the decisions made before they arrive if they feel that to be necessary and in the best interests of ratepayers and residents.

    The die was cast before we got to vote. The rest of the editorial covers the aggressively secretive approach of the ATA when Computerworld sought information.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 17938 posts Report Reply

  • TracyMac,

    Wow, I'm appalled about that news about SAP. Personally, I think it's a pile of crap - only fit for running German car factories - and the only reason to make a significant investment in SAP infrastructure would be to upgrade and consolidate your existing SAP environment. I have no idea why they seem to have a lot of govvie-type organisations by the short-and-curlies, but it's the same in Canberra.

    So they should have picked the SAP implementation that looked the most up-to-date and usable (I know, strange concepts for SAP), and then used that one to enhance and build on.

    And for those who've used both, is Oracle Financials any better than SAP? That's a beast too, so I'm not holding my breath that it would be.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 414 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Russell Brown,

    I'm paying for that.

    As is everyone who might have benefitted from that money being spent by Council on other activites. Should sound familiar to followers of national level politics too.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 15715 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to TracyMac,

    the only reason to make a significant investment in SAP infrastructure would be to upgrade and consolidate your existing SAP environment.

    That was the original justification presented to decision-makers for approval, if I recall one of Russell's previous columns correctly.

    Then starting from scratch was substituted. How, by whom and on what authority would be interesting questions for journos to follow up.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 15715 posts Report Reply

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