A Digital Future for Australia’s Public Sector

Published on July 5, 2018 - Keiran Mott

Australia’s goal of having one of the top three digital governments in world could be constrained by a lack of success in implementing digital transformation projects.

Indeed, digital transformation is having a fundamental impact on governments and businesses around the world and much of this is being driven by cloud computing.  By reducing the need for large capital investments and speeding deployment of new systems, it is changing the way planned projects are approached and existing services delivered.

Human Services and Digital Transformation minister Michael Keenan recently outlined plans to make interactions and engagement with government easier, and to use data analytics to support more innovative decision-making.

However, while such goals would deliver significant benefits, they will be hampered by the roadblocks preventing the delivery of widespread digital transformation across the public sector.

Departments and agencies remain highly reliant on legacy infrastructure and applications which absorb the vast majority of IT budgets. This leaves little funding for new, transformative projects.

According to a recent survey, commissioned by FTS Group and Software AG, 60% of respondents nominate a lack of tools and methodologies as the top factor inhibiting the successful completion of digital transformation projects. Meanwhile 41% indicate a lack of senior leadership is their biggest concern.

The results are very concerning and highlight that there is considerable work to be done within Australia’s public sector if the promises of digital transformation are to be fully realised. In particular, political leaders must clearly communicate that they support these critical initiatives and provide sufficient funding to allow the acquisition of the proper tools for the job.

Other constraints flagged by survey respondents include a lack of funding, nominated by 34%, and a lack of leadership from line managers (28%).

Some argue that transformation is a process that is never finished.  Government agencies need to realise that they can’t simply evolve current systems and processes once and be done with it.

Rather, as the pace of change continues to increase, successful departments will be those that never stand still.  At the same time, it will rapidly become clear that digital transformation is more than just delivering mobile apps and adopting SaaS, for IT.  It is about shifting to a new operating model and this will require a shift in departmental mind-set and the creation of an environment which will support cultural change.  This won’t happen quickly.

Digital transformation as a part of overall agency transformation will remain a constant and ongoing activity.