Major IT procurement change for Australia's NSW government driven by talented women forging the digital economy

Women at NSW DFSI driving major IT procurement change

Within the Australia's New South Wales Government are many talented women at senior levels.

Take for example the ever impressive Dawn Routledge who is Executive Director, Office of the Secretary at NSW Department of Finance, Services and Innovation (DFSI). Her address to CeBIT (video above) was engaging and informative, and her work within the department is exciting. 

Dawn Routledge

New approaches to IT procurement

The NSW Government in Australia is adopting a new approach to IT procurement, simplifying the relationship and interaction between agencies and suppliers. The government-wide platform - although currently limited to cloud services - is pitched to eventually become the state’s single channel for IT procurement.

Natasha Wolf, delivery manager for the project has described NSW's platform as the "vehicle" for change and not the change itself. Natasha is the Government Digital Communities Marketplace Services Manager at NSW Department of Finance, Services and Innovation (DFSI). The Government Digital Communities service is building capability to assist NSW agencies in their digital transformation, including colocation facilities, identity management, and a digital marketplace.

A transformative approach for NSW

The NSW platform has emerged quickly. Just three months passed between the first line of code being written and the initial suppliers joining the platform.

“We built it in-house at the Department of Finance, Services and Innovation, and the first line of code was written in late February,” Wolf told the Technology in Government summit in Canberra yesterday. “We opened to sellers to onboard in May, and we opened to buyers to come and have a look at what was on offer in June.”

The platform now supports approximately 100 buyers and over 50 sellers.

Behind the platform's development was months of consultation with government CIOs, government buyers and industry using one-on-one interviews, workshops and reference groups to understand the state of government procurement.

“We did a range of work identifying what user needs there were and what the current feeling was around processes that currently existed, and what we found was that people were predominately frustrated,” Natasha said.

“They were confused about what the process was. They felt that it was lengthy, labour intensive and slow. They thought that the contracts were not fit for purpose and were often confused about which contract to use and when.”

It was also difficult for buyers to find new sellers through existing procurement mechanisms like the ICT service scheme, which relied on an excel spreadsheet to discover register sellers, Natasha said. Similarly, agencies were unsure “about the accuracy of the data that [was being] collected about the sellers … and the quality of their capability”.

However rather than undertake the “mammoth task” head on - which would have required overhauling much of the existing procurement framework - the department “started small and moved fast”.

“What that meant for us is that we started with the subset of buyers from the cloud. We knew that this wasn’t a large spend in government at the moment. We knew for our metrics that this wasn’t something that could have a huge impact immediately, and possibly, therefore, be risky,” Natasha said. “But we also knew that it was something that we are all looking to do more of, and therefore visibility into that space would be beneficial for the government.”

A holistic approach to procurement 

“What we're trying to do here is build a kind of generic contracting framework that can be pyramided up for any kind of solution type, for any kind of assessed risk, and that will work in a digital delivery because we can easily put this into a contract builder,” Natasha said.

The department also looked at reducing the ICT service scheme from 17 categories and 83 subcategories to 10 categories.

It was only after the legwork had been done that the department decided to develop to platform to get agencies and suppliers to test the new rules and contracting frameworks.

“As you can see we’re taking a holistic approach to procurement. We see buy.nsw not as the change, but as the vehicle for change. So what we’re really doing is were change policies. We’re changing rules. We’re changing standards,” she said. “And the platform is designed to deliver those standards and deliver those to people to be used, and then to test whether they’re working properly.”

Join the talent at NSW DFSI 

Join talented women like Natasha at NSW DFSI. Search and apply for your new career helping to build sustainable communities. 


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Disclosure: Where Women Work researches and publishes insightful evidence about how its paid member organizations support women's equality.

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