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Australia cuts Microsoft bill by AU$100m

CTO John Sheridan wonders why anyone would upgrade Office again

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

Australia has reduced the amount of money it pays for Microsoft products by AU$100m (£66m, $103m), according to the nation's Chief Technology Officer John Sheridan.

Speaking yesterday at the Kickstart conference, Sheridan explained that consolidating contracts from 42 to one and working through a single reseller has enabled the savings. One contract now covers 300,000 devices and 260,000 people across 126 entities. Work has begun on negotiations for the successor contract with Redmond.

Sheridan did not say what savings he expects or hopes for that deal, but said cutting costs further by using open source software is not his preferred tactic, as big bang upgrades are costly and complex. A mandated replacement for Office may also hamper innovation and productivity, he opined, pointing to the presentation he created in the free iOS graphics app Haiku Deck.

Sheridan used the app to create a witty slide deck featuring Lego minifigures in quaint poses, but said it is not yet reasonable to expect that public servants will bring their own devices, do their work with apps and save the government some cash.

“BYOD does not have a lot of applicability for riflemen or Centrelink counter staff,” he said, hosing down the notion that all Commonwealth employees could be BYOD candidates. Sheridan likes the idea of cheap apps selected and sourced by staff being used widely across the public service, but just how bring your own device would work is yet to be determined.

“What if a worker does BYOD and their device breaks?” he asked. Would that worker be responsible for coming to work with a working device? Would the Commonwealth be expected to have backup devices? Those processes are yet to be considered, he said, and BYOD for the Commonwealth is therefore not yet feasible.

Sheridan also pointed to other savings the Australian Government Information Management Office's (AGIMO) revised procurement practices have brought about. Before that work commenced, Sheridan said the Commonwealth paid 54 per cent above the Australian average price for PCs. Today it pays 49 per cent below that average, with savings of $27m banked. Telepresence has saved $44m in travel costs since 2009.

Sheridan said vendor culture has also changed as a result of the purchasing panel arrangements. ISPs, he said, used to offer a capacity upgrade when their contracts expired. Now they offer that and a price cut.

“We regularly see savings in excess of 50 per cent,” he said. “They understand government wont be renewing contracts just because it is too hard to move.” ®

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