Wellington City Council fights back following industry pressure

Wellington City Council goes on offensive following criticism of its process in naming Australian company TechnologyOne as the preferred vendor for its major technology upgrade project.

Wellington City Council has gone on the front foot after strong criticisms from NZRise and IT consultant and commentator Ian Apperley about its process in naming Australian company TechnologyOne as the preferred vendor for its major technology upgrade project.

In a statement emailed to Computerworld New Zealand, spokesperson Richard MacLean says WCC “disagrees with the views of NZRise” and remains “confident in our stance because we have put considerable effort into identifying the best solution for Wellington City Council’s operational requirements.”

”While NZRise and Mr Apperley have strong views about this, we respectfully point out that we have the best knowledge about our operational system requirements and what is required to meet our own needs,” MacLean added via email.

“We have provisionally pointed to TechnologyOne as our preferred supplier because its proposal best meets these needs and it has a proven track record of providing reliable off-the-shelf systems for local government in New Zealand and across the Tasman.”

In a bid to diffuse the situation amidst rising industry pressure, MacLean was quick to reiterate points which WCC believes seem to have been lost in the debate.

“We ran an open procurement process that allowed any IT firm to respond,” MacLean added. “Any Wellington companies that were capable of providing a solution either chose not to participate or provided a bid that was assessed to not be as suitable as the proposal from TechnologyOne.

“As part of the shortlist process we assessed a large number of successful TechnologyOne implementations of similar systems across Australiasia. We are confident that TechnologyOne can deliver on their proposal as they have done so for many other clients.”

MacLean advised that the direction WCC is taking is to adopt standard processes for delivering standard services in the “most efficient and cost-effective” way for staff to serve customers, and increasing the number of services that are available to customers for them to self-serve online.

“It is our intention to have a system delivered that would replace about 70 separate ‘core’ systems which, at the moment, constitute a ‘Heath Robinson’ arrangement that presents big risks to our ability to provide core and critical services,” he added.

“There are about 50 more ICT systems that provide specialist services. Replacing core systems with more robust standardised ones will offer us a future opportunity to add innovative technology systems to them.”

MacLean said WCC may look to local bespoke suppliers of ICT systems to upgrade some of its specialist services or add to them once its core systems upgrade is in place; “so NZRise’s claim that we are putting all of our eggs in one basket does not stand up,” he added.

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The council also told Computerworld New Zealand that it has not yet finished its due-diligence process in which it is closely looking at TechnologyOne’s suitability in all areas.

“However, we stand by our decision to provisionally select TechnologyOne to fulfil our requirements in project Odyssey,” MacLean added.

As reported by Computerworld New Zealand, the council offered assurances that the council ran a “robust and open procurement process” and that under the terms of this process TechnologyOne are deserved winners.

“That is not the point,” countered NZRise co chair Don Christie. “The problem NZRise has is with the overall approach that the council has taken.

“In their response they do admit that there are a large number of systems being replaced. These cover very wide and diverse specialist areas.”

Consequently, Christie believes there is no doubt that it is important to have smart strategic thinking about technology usage.

“Our contention is that it is necessary to keep the 'smart' bit within council and to ensure that it is possible to procure 'best of breed' solutions for each area of specialisation, whether that be financial control, asset management, HR, payroll, fault reporting, disaster readiness and so on,” he added.

“The strategic thinking needs to be around setting open standards for interoperability - something modern architectures have defined very well - and adhering to those standards.”

According to Christie, experience has suggested that this builds “robustness and resilience” into IT infrastructure that can't be replicated by homogeneous solutions while also allowing for rapid responses to be made to unforeseen developments,whether they be technological or natural.

“The council's response shows no interest in what ground-breaking local government organisations are doing overseas,” Christie added.

“NZRise does not claim higher domain knowledge than the council on the business of running a council. But our members do have very wide experience over multiple sectors that can add to the capability of the organisations we work with.”

When quizzed for comment by Computerworld New Zealand, Apperley was more blunt. “I'm over them,” he said.