Digital deadline looms for govt agencies
As the September deadline approaches for Commonwealth government agencies to prepare digital transformation plans, experts are warning agencies not to fall into the trap of treating the task as ‘just another compliance activity’.
By September 2015, all federal government agencies with high-volume transactions, high-impact digital information services or those launching new digital information or transaction services must have developed a plan describing how the agency will adopt the government’s new 16-point Digital Service Standard (DSS).
The DSS will ultimately see the migration of all major government services to an integrated, user-centric online platform by the end of 2017.
The aim is to make interacting with government agencies as easy as internet banking or online shopping through an app.
Mark Harrison, public sector governance expert and managing director of global consulting firm Protiviti, cautions that adoption of the DSS, launched in April, amounts to a major IT transformation that agencies should plan for in a strategic and coordinated way, not ‘rush through’ simply to meet a deadline.
“Government departments are complex environments. It can take up to a year for significant IT investments to be planned and built into existing change cycles,” Harrison said.
“So while there’s a perceived urgency to finalise transformation plans quickly, if the planning is superficial, you can be sure the wheels will fall off as soon as the rubber hits the road.”
Harrison said that to ensure the transformation is strategic, agencies should start with a review to identify their digital strengths and weaknesses. They should benchmark themselves against organisations they aspire to, in order to understand best practices.
And they should consult with stakeholders, including users of their services, staff and partners to get an accurate understanding of needs and wants.
“The DSS has a big, ambitious agenda. If done properly, Australians will be able to access government services anywhere, anytime and on any device,” he said.
“It will break down silos in government, so individuals can deal seamlessly with a single contact for all requests and transactions.”
However, Harrison said these advantages carry significant risks, which need to be carefully managed. Data privacy and security is paramount and will be a challenge to manage in an environment of shared platforms, greater IT outsourcing, multiple user channels and portable devices.
“It’s telling that many agencies are still grappling with the Commonwealth’s Protective Security Policy Framework, which governs how information, people and property should be secured — even though this policy was introduced back in 2012,” Harrison said.
“At present, the quality of digital services across federal agencies is patchy and segregated, so there’s no question the DSS is needed to improve the public’s online experience.
“Agencies need to plan their transformation thoroughly and work with the central coordinator, the Digital Transformation Office, to build the cross-agency relationships and processes needed to support a critical ‘whole of government’ initiative such as this.”
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