Thursday, June 20, 2024

Parliamentary Service leads way on digital transformation

Parliamentary Service has completed a major transition of key information technology systems from on-premise operation to a Software-as-a-Service environment from TechnologyOne.

Parliamentary Service officially went live with its new TechnologyOne SaaS system in early February, completing a project which kicked off just 10 months earlier. It is now using TechnologyOne’s Finances, Budgeting and Supply Chain Management tools to support its operations.

The agency’s Chief Financial Officer, Jade Goddard says the ability to work anywhere, anytime and from any device was a big selling point.

“We were using an ad-hoc collection of applications that didn’t talk to each other. Our Microsoft Dynamics installation was behind where you would expect a modern system to be and it was all on-premise, with all the disaster recovery risk that entails,” said Ms Goddard.

Parliamentary Service is responsible for providing administrative and support services to New Zealand’s 120 Members of Parliament, as well as managing the buildings and grounds of the parliamentary precinct. It employs 460 people with a further 260 staff in regional locations.

“We are the backbone of operations for Parliament and its members. That means we have a responsibility to the people of New Zealand to make sure we’re working as efficiently and effectively as possible,” Ms Goddard said.

Parliamentary Service has now become the first agency outside the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) to move to a modern Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) environment based on TechnologyOne’s All of Government Cloud Framework. Nine others have also signed up.

The Agreement, announced between MBIE and TechnologyOne in April last year, is designed to make it easier for New Zealand government agencies to adopt SaaS-based operations, and bring forward the benefits, by adopting a common conceptual framework.

In late 2020, Parliamentary Service commissioned external consultants, to undertake a review of current finance systems and provide recommendations for the future. They recommended a move to SaaS. Ms Goddard, who had used TechnologyOne’s systems in a previous role at Land Information New Zealand, was familiar with the platform and its benefits.

After the All-of-Government cloud framework agreement was finalised by MBIE in early 2021, the Parliamentary Service project team got to work with TechnologyOne planning out the transition for an agency whose operations are a little unique among its peers.

“The nature of our work means we have a few idiosyncrasies. We have two year-ends, for example. MP appointments, and hence budgets, are effective from the date of the last election. So, we have a statutory year-end of June and a parliamentary year-end of October,” Ms Goddard said.

Among its other duties, Parliamentary Service is also responsible for administering parliamentary funding for Political Parties and Members of Parliament. This funding is approximately $50 million per year and Parliamentary Service is responsible for ensuring all spend is in accordance with very specific rules and guidance. This brings with it many unique complexities that no other agency is subject to.

“That means we’re working with a large number of external stakeholders who are able to incur expenses but aren’t our employees. It’s an unusual situation and has involved a little customisation of the TechnologyOne system on our behalf.”

Ms Goddard said the transition had gone relatively smoothly among the agency’s internal teams and these external stakeholders, in part because of the detailed communication plan Parliamentary Service created to help manage the change.

“That also hasn’t been without its challenges. When we were initially planning the project we had plans to have team members travelling to MPs offices around the country undertaking training. The COVID lockdowns in the second half of 2021 meant we had to switch those to virtual sessions,” she said.

While the Finance team has only completed two month-ends to-date since going live with the new system, Ms Goddard is already planning the next steps.

“I’d like to see us introducing more dashboards and analytics. Previously that sort of thing was beyond our capabilities, we’d have to wait overnight for reports to run, for example. But now, with access to accurate, real-time information, we’re able to deliver much more. We are also planning ahead and thinking about other modules that could add value and streamline our operations,” she said.

TechnologyOne’s Country Manager for New Zealand, John Mazenier says Parliamentary Service is one of many state sector organisations moving to SaaS.

“It’s clear SaaS allows state agencies to deliver services more efficiently and effectively. A landmark analysis in Australia last year by IBRS and Insight Economics also found potential savings of NZ$67 billion over ten years across their State and Federal government sectors,” he said.

“Given our economy is roughly 15 percent of the size of Australia’s that equates to an additional NZ$10 billion to invest in innovation. That could make a material difference in helping New Zealand deliver on its Digital Strategy goals and policy goals of greater trust, inclusion and growth for all,” he said.

“Of course, any strategy also needs great execution and that’s what we saw at Parliamentary Service. The internal project team did an awesome job and there are likely to be many positive lessons learned for other agencies to leverage,” Mr Mazenier said.

Parliamentary Service was the first agency outside of MBIE to sign onto the new framework agreement with TechnologyOne and is unlikely to be the last, with nine more agencies since embarking on their own SaaS journeys.

“This agreement provides government agencies the ability to engage with TechnologyOne under standardised terms and a tiered subscription pricing model. Nine other eligible agencies have since also signed up to this agreement,” said General Manager of Finance Systems, Control & Procurement at MBIE, Michael Alp.

Latest Articles