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Digital transformation in the APS

External perspective provided by Paul Shetler, CEO Digital Transformation Office

As you might imagine, those of us working in the Digital Transformation Office are acutely aware of the size and scope of the task that lies ahead.

That’s not to say that progress hasn’t been made; every day I speak with public servants who are passionate about finding ways to make the services they deliver better.

“Most agencies feel under-equipped to meet the challenges of digital transformation”

That personal experience is backed by the results of the APS agency survey, where the majority of respondents indicate that they know their agencies need to make greater progress, but feel under-equipped to meet the challenges of digital transformation. The 2015 agency survey identified a clear gap in capability. This includes the need for comprehensive digital planning across the APS and the need to ensure digital strategies are integrated with broader agency strategic planning.

Digital transformation: Strategic planning

Learn more about this chart: view data for Figure 1.

What’s been lacking until recently has been a clear mandate for the way forward, a roadmap for the steps to take, and strong government support for the – sometimes small, sometimes radical – changes that need to be made.

That’s where the Digital Transformation Office comes in.

We’re on a mission to make public services simpler, clearer, faster and more humane for our users.

I believe we have an extraordinary opportunity, and the DTO’s mission is to provide the Australian public sector with the expertise, the tools and the impetus to seize that opportunity.

Find out more about measuring agency capability and the Capability Maturity Model (CMM).

For example, right now, agencies across the Australian public service are working with us on Digital Transformation Plans. These will outline the current state of play, set out the strategic vision of the agency, and help identify the services (or aspects of services) that are the best candidates for transformation, in order to fulfil that vision.

We’re already working directly with project teams in some agencies to trial the best ways to deliver rapid and robust service transformation. We’re looking forward to sharing our learnings so our experiences can benefit everyone across local, state and federal government.

We’ll be looking at ways to make it easier for small to medium sized enterprises to provide their wares to government, so you have more freedom of choice.

And we’ve also received the message that most APS employees, while embracing the use of digital technologies in the workplace, are really feeling the lack of any formal digital skills training. That’s another area where we can help, and we’ll be working to increase our digital knowledge and capabilities right across the service.

Have you received any formal digital skills training in your workplace?

Learn more about this chart: view data for Figure 2.

So there are a couple of important points I’d like to make.

The first is that digital transformation doesn’t need to be huge and overwhelming. Yes, some of us are dealing with services that cost millions of dollars and affect huge numbers of people. But we don’t need to change the world overnight. APS employee census results show that nearly two-thirds of APS employees use their agency’s suite of digital technologies for carrying out tasks and interacting with colleagues. Eighty-three percent of respondents believe that digital technologies give them greater access to information.

You’ll often hear me say, think big, start small. Part of our approach is picking out small parts of those large, complex services; getting an improved basic version out very quickly; then making incremental changes that can be tested, improved and gradually scaled-up.

Second, I want to emphasise that transforming services is something we’re doing with you, not to you. We all know digital transformation has to happen, and that we have to do better to keep up with the benchmarks set by the private sector and the expectations of our users. But I know the only way this can happen is by working in close collaboration with the agencies that own and deliver the services. If we can get that right, then we’re halfway to reaching our goal already; and we’re very grateful to the agencies who have approached our partnerships so far with such openness and enthusiasm.

We have a long road ahead of us and there is still considerable work to be done to develop the workforce capability needed to support digital transformation but make no mistake, we’re part of a powerful worldwide movement.

Digital transformation: Workforce capability

Learn more about this chart: view data for Figure 3.

Organisations such as 18F and the US Digital Service in the United States and the Government Digital Service in the UK are well known for their pioneering work in digital transformation. But governments in Singapore, Israel, South Korea and Estonia are also making incredible progress, while closer to home, the New Zealand Government has declared all services will become digital by default.

We really do have the chance to make Australia a global leader in public sector service delivery, and we’re looking forward to working with you to make that happen.

Last reviewed: 
8 July 2018