This blog is totally independent and has only three major objectives.
The first is to inform readers of news and happenings in the e-Health domain, both here in Australia and world-wide.
The second is to provide commentary on e-Health in Australia and to foster improvement where I can.
The third is to encourage discussion of the matters raised in the blog so hopefully readers can get a balanced view of what is really happening and what successes are being achieved.
Tuesday, March 17, 2015
Now This Is A Pretty Scary Prospect! How Likely Is It That This Will Be Done Well?
SOCIAL Services Minister Scott Morrison has declared there would be near-immediate savings and more effective service delivery arising from the replacement of an antediluvian 1980s era Centrelink computer that poses a new impediment to welfare reform.
Federal cabinet is currently considering replacing the system in a move estimated to cost about $1bn with The Australian revealing today that changing a letter for social security payments takes 100 public servants six months at a cost of $500,000.
Centrelink’s “Income Security Integrated System” which handles $100bn worth of payments each year runs on a Model 204 mainframe considered to be too cumbersome to cope with the overhaul of the payments system proposed by welfare reformer Patrick McClure.
Mr Morrison and Human Services Minister Marise Payne are pushing for funding in the May budget to replace the outdated system.
“This is a system that still has manual processing attached to it… And it’s been left to basically wither for many years,” Mr Morrison told Sky News. “Now, the system’s stable, I should stress, but it could run far more efficiently and effectively both for the users and for the government and more cost effectively as well.”
“No doubt it would save money in the short term even I would suggest with the sort of changes you could make immediately.”
Mr Morrison said that when the system was introduced in the 1980s there were about 2.5 million people receiving payments, but that number had increased to just under ten million people today.
To me it seems clear that the system from the 1980’s has passed its ‘use-by’ date. The issue is surely how this can be achieved without major delays and cost-blow outs of quite disastrous proportions.
Given the track record of such large and in this case pretty complex systems - where one would have to doubt there was even any written down, complete and reliable set of specifications given the shifting specifications of the 30 years from political change - the chance of the needed systems being developed and implemented without issues would have to be well short of 100%.
The two other obvious issues are how to keep the old systems running while the new systems are brought up and the potential economic impact should payments of this scale to the public fail for any more than a few days.
To me the big challenge is going to be to work out how the workload of the present systems can be divided up and then incrementally transferred. Clearly a ‘big bang’ changeover would be just absurdly risky!
Note: the relevance to e-Health is that these systems interact with the other Human Services systems and so they matter to those interested in e-Health!
How do others think a project of this scale and complexity can be derisked and what salary would you see as fair for the project leader?