NDIS Portal Verdict: Good IT System, Bad Change Management

The review Christian Porter set up into the NDIS Portal is in. And it is not good news for the NDIA.

The review found that the NDIA was provided with an IT system that met all its requirements. But NDIA did not think through all the work needed to introduce the new IT system.

Having the right IT product is not enough, the right product only works if people know how to use it and it has good quality data within it.

Change management was MIA

Although the NDIA had the right IT platform, it’s change management processes were “found to be immature, absent and/or late”. The review has told the NDIA that it needs to do two things better: engagement with stakeholders and hold people accountable within the NDIA.

The key message from the review is that stakeholder engagement is a priority for the NDIA. The portal was a big change for NDIA planners, providers, participants and self-managing participants. The NDIA did not map out all these different stakeholders and have specific communications products to meet their needs. This meant that the NDIA did not have tailored training and communications materials for the key groups using the portal.

Because the NDIA wasn’t communicating clearly, the data State governments provided did not meet the IT system data requirements, leading to a delay in getting state data in the system.

The report recommends that the NDIA develop a comprehensive stakeholder map. Within this map there would be a plan of how to communicate IT changes to the key groups, including providers, participants and those self-managing. As well as matching these groups with the level of support they might need when the systems change in the future.

The second key finding is that the NDIA has a “lack of clear organisational accountability” when it comes to the portal. While this is more of an internal problem for the NDIA, the result is that a Chief Operating Officer will be appointed who reports to David Bowen (NDIA CEO). This person will take charge of managing key changes like the portal and can act quickly and decisively when there is a problem.

Lessons for the future

The review also removes blame from Christian Porter as the responsible minister, finding that he “did not receive adequate updates on payment performance so was unable to understand the magnitude of the problem”. No doubt this will further stress the relationship between the NDIA and the Federal Government.

Between the Census failure and the NDIA portal, the government will be ratcheting up the information that the NDIA provides it over the next few years as we transition to full scheme.

The NDIA portal failure is also a lessons to all providers out there currently looking at making a change to their IT system. While the NDIA is a big organisation with its own set of issues, the lessons in change management are the same for all organisations making an IT change.

If you are a provider thinking about introducing a new IT system, the review into the portal provides three key lesson:

  1. Make sure someone is accountable and has the authority to deal with problems as you roll out new IT. They should have also developed contingency plans in case things don’t work out, and your executive should move to Plan B if things aren’t on track, rather than pushing ahead with a Plan A that is likely to fail.
  2. Develop a communications plan for everyone affected by the change. Sounds simple, but it doesn’t always happen. You need to know who will be impacted, what they need for the change and how you will support them.
  3. Keep your board in the loop and be honest about the risks. No heads rolled (yet) in the NDIA’s portal review, but if this was a service provider having these financial troubles and getting this kind of bad press, the Board may have taken stronger action! The review found that NDIA’s risk identified was great, but then they didn’t act on the problems thrown up in the risk identification. Make sure you’re not just identifying risks for your board are senior management team, but also acting to address those risks.

The review into the NDIA’s IT system can be found here: https://www.dss.gov.au/disability-and-carers/publications-articles/general/ndis-myplace-portal-implementation-review-final-report