Slalom takes over 2026 Australian Census duties from PwC

22 February 2024 3 min. read
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International technology consultancy Slalom has taken over digital delivery duties from PwC for the 2026 Australian Census.

The repercussions of PwC’s government tax policy breach continue with Slalom taking over digital delivery duties for the 2026 Australian Census. After a disastrous collaboration with IBM in 2016 the Australian Bureau of Statistics turned to PwC, and widely credited the Big Four firm with a successful outcome for the 2021 edition.

PwC has since however been frozen out, with Slalom now stepping in – a huge victory for the firm after only launching down under in early 2020.

Slalom takes over 2026 Australian Census duties from PwC

Headquartered in the US with a global headcount of around 12,000 professionals, Slalom only really got up and running in Australia in early 2020 via office launches in Melbourne and Sydney, before expanding to New Zealand last year. Despite a challenging recruitment environment due to Covid and other market factors, the consultancy’s numbers grew to 200 ahead of schedule, impressive but a tiny fraction compared to PwC’s former workforce in excess of 10,000.

Being selected by the ABS then on such a critical assignment is a massive coup for the fledgling consultancy, and may be indicative of a wider trend in government sector advisory, with not just PwC blacklisted but its fellow Big Four giants and the likes of Accenture out of favour. The ABS cited Slalom’s modern delivery and software engineering expertise for its selection, with the firm also given responsibility for providing operational support throughout the Census cycle.

“As the cyber landscape continues to change rapidly, protecting people’s privacy and keeping information safe and secure is the highest priority for the ABS,” stated the bureau’s census and data acquisition general manager Duncan Young. “We will be working with Slalom to build on the success of 2021, optimising elements of the service to improve quality and performance while ensuring it remains secure and contemporary for 2026.”

Catering to a population by then pushing 30 million, Young added that the ABS expects that 85 percent would complete the next census online, up a further 10 percent on 2021 targets despite less concern around social distancing. The system last time around coped with a peak of 270 logins and 142 form submissions per second on Census night, with 2.8 million lodged in total, while blocking around 130,000 malicious IP addresses over its lifetime.

According to the AFR, PwC earned in the region of $40 million to rebuild and maintain the system over a three-year period, with close to a 150 specialist across the firm’s various divisions engaged on the project. While effectively shut out from the latest bidding, PwC’s public sector consulting breakaway Scyne had also not yet officially launched, still awaiting approval from the finance department and other regulatory bodies when the tender went out.

Speaking prior to the PwC scandal, Slalom’s A/NZ managing director Michael Shimota stated the firm’s model would be successful in Australia because it's confident yet humble. “Tall poppy syndrome is a thing in Australia. It means if you get too big for your britches, you will be cut down to size. If you stay humble and produce results, you will succeed. You must develop trusting relationships. As a smaller, tighter market, negative issues become known quickly. Reputation is critical.”