ATO sets out IT overhaul
The Australian Taxation Office has launched a four-year project to overcome its repeated IT failures.
The agency says the project will respond to failures in a recent pair of damaging outages of an outsourced storage environment.
The failures in an HP 3PAR storage area network in December 2016 and February 2017 exposed problems with infrastructure’s design, implementation and maintenance.
The ATO has continued to suffer intermittent issues this year, the most recent of which was on September 25, when online services including ATO Online and the Tax Agent, BAS and Business Portals went offline.
The ATO says it will completely rebuild its internal IT infrastructure capability.
The agency’s IT systems improvement program is a “significant shift” in IT strategy, it said.
The four-year program includes plans to strengthen core IT platforms and a renewed focus on resiliency, which the ATO says will be achieved “through a concerted effort to simplify the underlying architecture”.
Reports say the ATO’s main applications will be run on a mix of cloud and “modernised” on-premises infrastructure.
Three of the agency’s most central applications already run on cloud-based servers.
“We are also working towards increasing the resilience of underlying legacy systems and infrastructure to further enhance the availability of our cloud-enabled applications,” the ATO said.
The Tax Office will also upgrade some of its ageing in-house infrastructure assets.
“We plan to refresh some of the core IT infrastructure assets to a more contemporary standard to reduce the inherent risk associated with legacy infrastructure failure,” the agency said.
“Improvements in availability will be made progressively, and have already commenced.”
The ATO says it is focusing both on “reducing the number and duration of unplanned outages due to better resiliency [and reducing] planned maintenance downtimes".
“Our old hardware assets will be refreshed and will continue to be kept up-to-date as required, so that hardware and software do not become obsolete and introduce vulnerabilities,” the ATO said.
A central focus is on improving the resiliency of “business critical” applications and services.
These include the Practitioner Lodgement Service (PLS), Single Touch Payroll (STP) and SuperTICK.
But not all the changes will be technology, with the ATO planning to focus on rebuilding its in-house skills and capability.
The agency will begin “developing a ‘staff digital capability strategy’ to ensure that our people are equipped to support clients (and each other) in the delivery of digital products and services,” it said.
The Tax Office said it would work on “embedding the European Commission Digital Competence Framework ... into our core capabilities”.
The framework aims to ensure digital capabilities are properly implemented across a range of domains.
The ATO also says it will refresh its own “existing capability framework to reflect contemporary requirements including digital and data literacy.”