Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: The unstable Supercity

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  • Sacha, in reply to Nasi Goreng,

    Tricky when the problem is in the CFO's own downline - removes one accountability lever if they are more concerned about their own prospects than the organisation's. No idea why Ford and co positioned IT under Finance like some 90s organisation model.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19686 posts Report Reply

  • John Holley, in reply to Roger,

    The Auckland Council GIS viewer was the regional viewer delivered prior to the Auckland Council formation. All the councils in Auckland contributed, with the ARC being the lead.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 142 posts Report Reply

  • nzlemming, in reply to Nigel McNie,

    Dad has filled me in now. He says you owe him a beer ;) but he also told me to say that just to wind you up :)

    Hmmm, he may be right there ;-)

    Waikanae • Since Nov 2006 • 2930 posts Report Reply

  • nzlemming, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    To be fair Govt procurement is horrendously hamstrung by regs. Often the folks doing the actual work know they are pissing money down the proverbial, but they have no option to do otherwise.

    Um, no. Been there, still have most of the tshirts. There are bugger all actual regulations covering the whole of government for procurement. The GCIO is putting out standards, but they have no teeth to enforce them. IT procurement in central government is a little better than other procurement, but there's still no strict process or regulation to hamstring anybody.

    Vendors who speak the loudest and promise the greatest deal are the ones that get chosen. I've known vendors to send christmas boxes to panel members in the middle of an RFP process! I collected them all and sent them back. Somebody else would not have - in fact, I got abused by the people who'd received them for doing so.

    There's no red tape to speak of. There's just venality and "get it done" and "how hard do I really want to make this? After all, no-one ever got fired for buying [insert monolithic vendor name here]."

    Waikanae • Since Nov 2006 • 2930 posts Report Reply

  • nzlemming, in reply to Rich of Observationz,

    By GIS, I'm thinking of something like ArcGIS or MapInfo that allow a user to manage and analyse geospatial data.

    QGIS - ready for prime time. I speak as a user. I built the local government election information website around it in 2010. Worked like a charm then and it's improved since. Runs on Linux, Unix, Mac OSX, Windows and Android and supports numerous vector, raster, and database formats and functionalities. From the website:

    * Spatially-enabled tables and views using PostGIS, SpatiaLite and MS SQL Spatial, Oracle Spatial, vector formats supported by the installed OGR library, including ESRI shapefiles, MapInfo, SDTS, GML and many more. See section Working with Vector Data.
    * Raster and imagery formats supported by the installed GDAL (Geospatial Data Abstraction Library) library, such as GeoTIFF, ERDAS IMG, ArcInfo ASCII GRID, JPEG, PNG and many more. See section Working with Raster Data.
    * GRASS raster and vector data from GRASS databases (location/mapset). See section GRASS GIS Integration.
    * Online spatial data served as OGC Web Services, including WMS, WMTS, WCS, WFS, and WFS-T. See section Working with OGC Data.

    Waikanae • Since Nov 2006 • 2930 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to nzlemming,

    there's still no strict process or regulation to hamstring anybody

    You might be interested in what Treasury are insisting on in these post-Novopay days (endured a prescribed workshop today for a major project). I suspect the recently announced ACC transformation programme has been poked and prodded to within an inch of its life.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19686 posts Report Reply

  • nzlemming, in reply to Sacha,

    You might be interested in what Treasury are insisting on in these post-Novopay days (endured a prescribed workshop today for a major project).

    Yeah, well, Treasury has always said that projects should be this, that and the other, but the State Sector Act makes it clear that decisions in projects lie with the agency concerned, in central government, and Treasury has no real influence over local government unless central government subsidies are involved. Treasury interfere as much as they can, i.e. withholding project funding until they're satisfied, but they have no real teeth once the funding is released. And they really only get involved if it's over a certain budget level (used to be $5mil, not sure what it is now).

    They always get antsy after a big failure - INCIS was the same - but it only lasts a year or two and then it's BAU.

    Waikanae • Since Nov 2006 • 2930 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz, in reply to nzlemming,

    QGIS

    Nice. I will try that next time I need to bash geospatial data.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5550 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to nzlemming,

    They and the GCIO are under more pressure from Ministers to be involved than previously. And it's Ministerial approval that ends up being used as a bargaining chip by agency managers. I know you've seen many cycles of this stuff.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19686 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz,

    And just on cue, I give you an example of a well documented open source API:

    http://download.eclipse.org/jetty/9.3.7.v20160115/apidocs/org/eclipse/jetty/servlet/Holder.html

    Well done, Eclipse Foundation.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5550 posts Report Reply

  • nzlemming, in reply to Sacha,

    They and the GCIO are under more pressure from Ministers to be involved than previously. And it's Ministerial approval that ends up being used as a bargaining chip by agency managers. I know you've seen many cycles of this stuff.

    Well, good, let's hope it works out but, as you say, I've seen many cycles ;-)

    Waikanae • Since Nov 2006 • 2930 posts Report Reply

  • izogi, in reply to Rich of Observationz,

    I think an example of the sort of stuff they might want to do is

    Is there someone in these forums with considerable experience in local government who could comment on the types of tasks and the complexity which need to be achieved, and what's done and used at present? Without that, the whole thread (on this part of it) seems at risk of setting up a straw man before saying "yay, obvoiusly that's easy".

    Wellington • Since Jan 2007 • 1139 posts Report Reply

  • nzlemming, in reply to izogi,

    John's probably better placed than me to comment but, yes and no. What's not easy (and pretty damn stupid to try) is getting existing legacy systems into a brand new system that hasn't been built yet by a fixed cutoff date.

    There are many and varied GIS systems. They're used to delineate property parcels, plan facilities (drains and sewers being just one example), manage parks and reserves, anything that relates to geographical information. Some are better than others but they all are capable of doing the same thing - presenting a structured view (usually graphical, these days) of masses of data about places. Essentially, it's a GUI sitting on a database, or number of data stores, and integrating them as required.

    Let's start with the land parcels. Boundary lines, easements, sewage plans, storm water drainage, gas lines, water reticulation to the toby - anything that might be underground on or around a property (I've even seen dwelling plans included). Then you add service connections - street sewers that your home sewage connects to, water and gas mains, street names, traffic control points, council owned CCTV - all these things can be added as overlays. Each department of council manage the particular data that applies to their function. The parks and reserves people couldn't give a toss about gas mains unless they run under a park. When you hear of someone putting a back hoe through a telecommunications cable, chances are the utility company never advised the council that they'd buried a cable there and so it didn't show on the GIS (or the back hoe operator didn't look, which is just as likely). And it's not just councils that use GIS. Utility companies, roadbuilders, government agencies. Stats is a huge user as is the Electoral Commission. If you want to see some cool GIS at work, go to http://www.koordinates.com and play ;-)

    You really only should want 1 GIS per council - doesn't always work that way, as feudal decisions get made and it's usually IT's job to try to make them interconnect within the organisation, because they may not talk directly to each other if they are different brands. Some are completely incapable of sharing data without a huge alchemical process of transmutation, which often results in a lot of useful information not getting transferred.

    With the supercity, you had seven councils, each of whom had at least one GIS system (I believe there were more, but I'll stand to be corrected on that) and I'd take bets that there was at least one that was totally incompatible with the rest. The sensible course of action would be to take the biggest one (Auckland) and, one by one, merge the others into it, massaging and error checking as you go. It appears they haven't done this, but I could be wrong about that. Not my city, not my data monkeys.

    But that's just one facet of a council. There's also all the finance systems, accounts packages, payroll, HR, etc. These are all the things that AC wanted to bundle into one yet-to-be-built SAP installation. Madness, from an IT perspective. It's the sort of decision that gets made by people (particularly accountants) who think mainframes are just big PCs and don't really understand why they don't run Windows. AC appears guilty of poor decision-making and refusal to review those decisions. There appears to be a total lack of accountability and oversight, particularly around Foley.

    Waikanae • Since Nov 2006 • 2930 posts Report Reply

  • Lucy2, in reply to Ian Dalziel,

    Having been involved in a couple of SAP roll outs, they always deliver less than half of what is promised, always has to be extensively modified even though it is supposed to be an out of the box solution, always is way over time and way over budget. Once delivered a large amount of rework is required as for every upgrade large amounts of customization is required. Also the base product is always delivered by development houses overseas and the travel/accommodation costs for the staff required for set up is never disclosed up front.

    Christchurch • Since Mar 2016 • 3 posts Report Reply

  • Hayden McCall,

    iStart writer Chris Bell had the pleasure of sitting down with messrs Foley, McKenzie and McKay (then CIO, CFO and CEO, now, not) back in 2012. This was when the budget correction was $230 million.

    Their lack of any grasp on the scale of what they had signed off on with Deloitte and SAP is obvious...http://istart.co.nz/nz-news-items/auckland-council-bosses-front-on-it-spending/

    Auckland • Since Mar 2016 • 3 posts Report Reply

  • Hayden McCall, in reply to Nasi Goreng,

    Not this McCall!

    Auckland • Since Mar 2016 • 3 posts Report Reply

  • Hayden McCall, in reply to Nasi Goreng,

    Does anybody know if McCall is still feeding at the public trough or did he exit with Foley

    Auckland • Since Mar 2016 • 3 posts Report Reply

  • Steve Withers, in reply to Russell Brown,

    I've seen this sort of thing before. The top guy does something apparently crazy and takes the fall for it......but he was actually working to an agenda. It's worth looking at what happened next for the individual concerned. What was the reward for doing something apparently crazy, but which had some obvious beneficiaries?

    Auckland • Since Mar 2008 • 312 posts Report Reply

  • Moz,

    On a slightly related note, bigger councils might not be better - new research in Oz suggests that especially forced amalgamations can easily lead to diseconomies of scale: https://theconversation.com/do-mergers-make-for-better-councils-the-evidence-is-against-bigger-is-better-for-local-government-56813

    Sydney, West Island • Since Nov 2006 • 1198 posts Report Reply

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