Posted by: mikepearsonnz | October 8, 2009

With all this talk of inputs, where’s the architecture?

Having thought about the Treasury briefing for a week or so, I now realise that something was missing.   That something was an explanation of how Treasury thinks their project fits into their bigger picture of how they think government works.

You can see what I mean, in the following diagram, adapted from S.L.Hodgkinson, “The Role of the Corporate IT Function in the Federal IT Organization” (1996) .   The talk showed no comprehension of the “Federated” concept.  Instead we are still talking in terms of “Centralised” and “Decentralised”.  The 1980s reform moved us towards the “Decentralised” model, and now the economic crisis starts the pendulum swing back the other way.

Distributed vs Centralised tension

The Role of the Corporate Function in the Federal Organisation

The diagram came about as part of my work for the State Services Commission, on a Government Federated Enterprise Architecture.   Our work closely followed similar government enterprise architecture  initiatives in the US, UK, Canada and Australia.  They are focussed on:

  • Providing a common language for agencies involved in the delivery of cross-agency services;
  • Supporting the identification of duplicate, re-usable and sharable services;
  • Providing a basis for the objective review of investment by government; and
  • Enabling more cost-effective and timely delivery of services through a repository of standards, principles and templates that assist in the design and delivery of capability and, in turn, business services to citizens.

As an interesting side note – look who runs the government enterprise architecture initiatives:

  • US – Office of Management and Budget
  • Canada – Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat
  • Australia – Department of Finance and Deregulation

I hope that the Treasury picks up on this previous work done by the State Services Commission, and starts to include discussion of federated architecture.   Our work had already gone further than other jurisdictions, by using previous NZ e-government initiatives (SONZ, FONZ) and had identified the need for performance measurement and benchmarking.



  1. Good point, Mike. And if government wants to maximise its existing investment in infrastructure and data (and maybe services?) it needs to be able to be loosely coupled / federated….easy to snap bits in and out without having to change everything or spend a truckload of money on moving the pendulum out the extremes, either one way or the other.

  2. Thanks Trudy. Loosely coupled is a good design principle; but it often adds initial short-term cost, my rule-of-thumb is 20%. That’s going to be harder to justify in the current economic climate, but I would support it. The cost is recouped on the 1st restructure.

    Loosely coupled commodity back-office systems enables them to be provided by either in-house or outsourced providers.

  3. +2
    Watching the Treasury presentation and reading what others are saying about it, I can’t help thinking that Treasury believe all agencies took “their” chunk of GCS and wandered off with it, and they just need to plug them all back together to make it all work again. It would be interesting to dig up old Treasury papers that supported the State Sector Act breakup of the Public Service, and compare the reasoning.

  4. Compare the reasoning on what exactly, Mark? the breakup compared to the put-back-together?

  5. Yup. WHy did they think it was such a great idea for agencies to have their own HR, IT etc, and now it’s not? Was the original assertion correct and the world just changed? Or was it faulty to start with and, if so, why should we listen to them now? 😉

  6. Also, what other advice from Treasury in the 80’s should we be reviewing with a jaundiced eye? (Like asset sales, for example).

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