Management and accountability
Managing knowledge and information
Austrade’s knowledge and information systems underpin its role of advancing Australia’s trade, investment, international education and tourism interests through information, advice and services to businesses, the education sector and governments.
Austrade’s information technology connects staff across a wide network distributed across 82 overseas locations in 48 markets, as well as 11 offices in Australia. It enables Austrade to connect Australian and foreign businesses and institutions together to pursue trade, investment, tourism, and international education and training interests.
Austrade’s Relationship Management System is the core business system for managing and sharing information about Austrade’s relationships and interactions with other organisations.
In 2013–14, a major redevelopment of the system was completed to modernise the platform and ensure it can continue to support Austrade’s evolving business practices. As well as a restructure of information holdings, the redevelopment included amendments to the user interface to ensure its ongoing usability for delivering Austrade services.
Foundational components to enable richer online services were added to the system, including the ability to register business details and facilitate the automated generation of leads. Additional online services for email direct marketing, referrals and opportunities will be added in 2014–15.
Austrade also completed a major project to integrate a number of information systems into a single intranet. The system, called ‘The Hub’, provides a single source of information and an entry point to Austrade’s core knowledge and information assets, offering storage, access, search and retrieval services to all staff.
The Hub addresses structural and content aspects of how corporate information is provided to staff, particularly governance information such as policies and procedures for risk management and fraud control. Users are able to selectively subscribe to areas of interest and receive timely alerts as new information is added to The Hub.
In 2014–15, The Hub will continue to evolve, with ongoing enhancements planned to improve usability, performance and data quality.
During 2013–14, Austrade continued to work on its data centre relocation project, which involves rehousing Austrade’s computing environment across two government-approved commercially hosted data centres in Canberra. The new data centres will change the way ICT operations are run by providing greater automation using updated technologies. From early 2014–15, Austrade’s ICT environment will have improved reliability and availability, occupy less floor space, make more efficient use of ICT equipment, and consume less power.
A core component of Austrade’s ICT strategy is providing support for the agency’s highly mobile workforce. In 2013–14, Austrade introduced an enterprise mobility programme of work called ‘Austrade on the Go’. The key elements of the programme, to be delivered in 2014–15, are:
- the SWAPP project, which involves replacing the existing fleet of laptops with lighter, faster and better-performing devices
- the mobility project, which involves replacing the existing BlackBerry devices with modern devices, and providing appropriate device management and connectivity to enable staff to be more mobile and productive
- the wireless project, which involves providing wireless networks in Austrade offices to enable staff to be more flexible in the office work environment.
This upgraded capability will provide greater productivity and enhanced security features and enable access from a broader range of devices such as smartphones and tablets.
Nils van Boxsel | Chief Information Officer, Canberra
Nils leads Austrade’s Information Technology Services Division, with responsibility for Austrade’s global ICT communications network, business information systems, mobile solutions, and voice and videoconferencing services. This includes providing 24-hour ICT support to staff in all Austrade locations, as well as setting the strategies and future directions for Austrade’s ICT investments.
Nils’s team is currently migrating Austrade’s data centres to externally managed, government-approved offsite facilities, as well as re-engineering and redesigning service delivery using a ‘private cloud’ approach. ‘The Austrade IT environment is now 100 per cent “virtualised” and ICT workloads are not tied directly to the hardware resources and infrastructure they run on. This equates to greater efficiency, flexibility and improved utilisation of resources for Austrade’, Nils said.
Nils has worked in the ICT industry for more than 20 years. Prior to joining Austrade, Nils worked at Microsoft as the enterprise lead in the Platform Strategy Group.
Austrade continued to strengthen its information security in 2013–14 in response to the increased volume and sophistication of cyber-attacks, such as attempts to gain unauthorised access to Austrade’s information and systems. This included enhancements to the Austrade Protected Network for managing protected-level information and the implementation of a parliamentary records and information management system on the network. This capability was deployed to onshore staff and will be evaluated for offshore staff in 2014–15.
In addition, Austrade will have enhanced cybersecurity in its new data centres, which are undergoing a full security assessment and accreditation.
Global ICT equipment refresh
Austrade completed a project for the replacement of its global ICT equipment at all office locations during 2013–14. The refreshed hardware and software better supports and enhances productivity and improves security and resilience, complementing other security initiatives that Austrade has been undertaking.
System monitoring and performance engineering
During 2013–14, enhanced monitoring technology was implemented across the Austrade network, which enables better IT support for Austrade users and proactive identification of potential issues. Following the implementation of system monitoring, the performance of various components in Austrade’s core business systems (The Hub and the Relationship Management System) was assessed and measures were taken to improve the performance of some components. The outcomes were significant performance improvements and increased usability for staff in remote locations across Austrade’s global network.
The Australian Government Information Management Office has published and mandated compliance with Web Content Accessibility Guidelines at various levels over a number of years. Austrade has continued its commitment to ensure that its ICT systems meet the requirements for web accessibility so that its content is accessible by people with a diverse range of hearing, movement, sight and cognitive abilities. This has included work to remediate issues in its public-facing website, www.austrade.gov.au, and its core business systems like The Hub and the Relationship Management System.
Other IT-enabled business projects
A range of other business projects related to the specific ICT needs of business functions within Austrade were undertaken in 2013–14. These included redevelopment of the Study in Australia website, www.studyinaustralia.gov.au, the market planning tool in the Strategy and Governance Division, Export Marketing Development Grants e-lodgement, MyAccount and the Austrade file management system in the Marketing Online and Business Practice Division, and the integration of the Tourism Division into Austrade after machinery-of-government changes.