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This article is taken from the December 2002 Phatlalatsa newsletter

 

Baseline data for Integrated systems management in the department of Justice

S&T has a long-standing relationship with the e-Justice programme, and we were approached to help gather qualitative data from senior managers for the ISM, the unit that provides strategic management services to e-Justice. S&T partner Nobayethi Dube ran the project, which she describes here.Introduction

The Department of Justice (DoJ) is in the midst of implementing the e-Justice programme, which aims to thoroughly modernise the judicial process in South Africa through appropriate technology. This programme - a cornerstone of the broader South African transformation - is made up of four projects, namely the Court Process System (CPS), Financial Administration System (FAS), Digital Nervous System (DNS) and Management of Information System (MIS).

At the heart of the programme lies the Information Systems Management (ISM), which supports all the other projects through the provision of infrastructure and broader strategic management. The ISM itself comprises two units, Strategic Management and Systems Management & Optimisation. The ISM appointed Ms Kalyani Pillay as General Manager: Systems Optimization in February this year. Buffeted by demands and requests for support, she in turn commissioned S&T to conduct a fast turn-around research project geared to providing strategic baseline data needed to prioritise tasks and develop a rational and measurable approach to the work of the ISM and her unit in particular.

Methodology

S&T used qualitative methods (in the form of in-depth interviews). Interviews were conducted with members of the ISM, Project Heads, and Managing Directors. In total fifteen face to face in-depth interviews were conducted. Interviews were recorded and later transcribed and analysed.

The ISM itself

The ISM is a new unit in the DoJ, tasked with transforming DoJ from a paper-based to an automated department. Respondents felt that the ISM faced a huge challenge in that it has to change peoples' mind-set. People in the department are used to a manual system and fear change. Respondents also believe that the ISM should carry out public relations functions for the Department. Overall, it was felt that the ISM is a crucial component of the DoJ that can provide the DoJ with a competitive advantage in the technology field.

Because the ISM is a new unit, it lacks capacity (at the time of the fieldwork appointments were being made). Respondents told us that the current ISM staff had good strategic skills, a very positive advantage for the Department. Respondents argued that because the ISM is such an important unit, it required the following skills:

  • Strategic planning,
  • Analytic and evaluative capacity,
  • Honesty/frankness,
  • Understanding of maintenance needs, and
  • Excellent interpersonal skills.

Financial constraints

Among the major problems mentioned by respondents was that of financial constraints. Respondents mentioned that the ISM had limited resources with which to respond to unlimited needs. In light of their financial constraints, respondents agreed with the ISM that it has to prioritise and has to be honest about what it can and cannot deliver to business units.

Communication

Communication emerged as a key function of the ISM, in raising its own profile, explaining what it can and cannot do for business units, and helping everyone understand how e-Justice functions.

Conclusion

The project showed how the business units regard the ISM as a vital component of the programme. There is a great deal of goodwill towards the ISM, which must be nurtured. Finally, the baseline data must be regularly updated in order to measure ISM progress against priorities identified by respondents.

In the past year Matthew, with help from Jowie, participated in two higher education studies commissioned by CHET. Both explored the challenges facing institutions as they bring themselves in line with the vision of the Minister of Education. Both studies have just been published by CHET. The first book explains the transformation of two institutions - the University of Port Elizabeth and Peninsula Technikon. The second focuses on all higher education institutions in the Eastern Cape, to assist them with the merger proposals made by the Ministry of Education.

 

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