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Service Virtualisation in Singapore: Moving Towards an App Economy

On the morning of August 26th, OpenGov Asia and its partner CA Technologies held an informative breakfast dialogue. The topic covered was on service virtualisation and the journey towards a digital app economy.  Eleven government agencies were represented in this dialogue. Each gave insight into their own experiences with service virtualisation. The speakers included Mr. Stephen Miles, Chief Technology Officer for Asia Pacific and Japan at CA Technologies, and Mr. Peter Harrison, Head of Infrastructure and Support at the Department of Child Protection and Family Support in Australia.

The breakfast dialogue began with Mr. Mohit Sagar, Managing Director and Editor in Chief of OpenGov Asia. “We are in a time of flux. With elections coming up, everyone is pushed to work hard and meet certain expectations,” he states, “Today, we will take you on a journey towards service virtualisation.” In order to achieve the Smart Nation vision, Singapore needs to listen to the demand for greater efficiency and speed in their public sector services. This is where service virtualisation comes into play. The growing mobile app economy has created a need to embrace digital transformation.

Mr. Stephen Miles, Chief Technology Officer for Asia Pacific and Japan at CA Technologies, strives towards making CA Technologies more relevant through dialogue and helping people think through their issues relating to digital transformation. He takes the floor to set the foundation for our dialogue. He tells us to think about how we can accelerate business processes, help organisations transform, and become more relevant in the world of technology. “In the app economy, every institution is a digital entity,” he states. “Every industry is connecting to their customers in a digital world.” Delegates are asked to consider this as an opportunity to participate in change, by rewriting the rules.  Mr. Miles highlights the need for organisations to be open in terms of sharing experiences with service virtualisation, exposing content, and what data needs to be secured. Once organisations do this, it is believed that organisations will be able to deliver solutions with rapid time to market, with meaningful and engaging content. 

Mr. Peter Harrison, Head of Infrastructure and Support at the Department of Child Protection and Family Support in Australia, describes his experience towards digital transformation. He works on applications to be used across 160 sites, with over 2400 users spread across many kilometers throughout Australia. Because the department is geographically spread, mobility is a great concern to his department. Mr. Harrison is tasked with figuring out how to improve communications across Australia and implement cost savings. With this challenge, they are looking at implementing e-learning and unified communications throughout the department. This would include using video conferencing in courts or prison. For example, if a child was to speak to their parent in prison, they could use video conferencing. This department works other agencies, but when sharing information, they must always consider how sharing this data might better protect the children. With a huge case management system to maintain, they have to be able to deploy this data only to the relevant areas. 

At this point, the delegates are asked the first two questions, how aligned are you to the business andhow are you managing change in your organisation? To the first question, it is found that delegates feel closely aligned (63%) or well aligned to the business (36%). This demonstrates that the many delegates feel that they are operating in line with the business of the organization. With respect to second question about managing change in the organisation, many delegates are talking about it (36%) or working through a defined process (36%).  This shows that organisations are moving away from the methods of spreadsheet management and engaging in more unstructured ways of dealing with change.

Mr. Joseph Lim, Manager of Service Design & Provision, Info-Structure Services Department at Temasek Polytechnic, has worked at Temasek for 14 years. He is working on certain projects to provide services to the students and staff at the Polytechnic level. Temasek Polytechnic started their journey towards service virtualisation in 2008. Whenthey first approached this journey towards virtualisation, they had to identify the problems in order to start an initiative to do something about it. Then they must think about how to solve the problem and how to use resources to enable the students to learn. With this, heuses a part structured and part ad hoc strategy. He emphasizes that they need to think creatively about virtualisation at Temasek, because it convinces students to work off application services. 

Mr.Paul Gagnon, Director, E-Learning and IT Services at Nanyang Technological University, works on creating integrated technological solutions to support the medical school, which is transforming the traditional pedagogy. In creating a strategy for change, he explains that he worked from a blank slate to do what was needed and there was little resistance to enable a mobility agenda. Mr.Alan Loe, Deputy Director, E-Learning and IT Services at Nanyang Technological University, works with Mr. Gagnon on building infrastructure and ecosystems. He believes they need to use an ad hoc system as there is change every day within his department.

Mr.Kuai Ser Leng, Chief Information Officer at Singapore Prison Service, oversees all technology in Singapore Prisons. This includes all CCTV in prisons, x-rays, and other forms of technology. He states that his agency goes through a lot of processes, approvals, and procedures when working through change. The main process he uses to deal with this dynamic environment, is change management. This requires getting people to buy in to service virtualisation, want to use the system, and say “I am in”.

Mr.Lee Kee Siang, Chief Information Officer of the National Library Board, is working to transform libraries as we know them. He comes up with innovative technological concepts to introduce inside new libraries. These concepts are developed from his interactions with all age groups. He looks to different industries to gain new ideas about using technology within a library setting. On the topic of managing change, heasks, “How do you embrace the users? It is essential to use various processes but you must have open minds because change is inevitable.” Another delegate feels that in order for the recommendation for changes to be approved, it has to be led by a strong leader to push it through. 

The delegates were then prompted two more questions,what processes are used to align IT to the business and do you have the skills to address digital transformation? Many feel they use a joint development of strategy (70%) process in order to align IT to the business. This made sense because with dynamic change, comes collective processes. As for second question about having the skills to address digital transformation, most delegates (50%) are working on it, while others (40%) already have it in place.  This shows that many agencies are being proactive in obtaining the necessary skills to meet this particular demand. 

Mr. SheeGim Leng,Deputy Director of National Service IT Systems at the Ministry of Home Affairs (National Service Directorate),looks at assessing the internal process and building a new generation portal to reach out to the public. He believes that digital transformation took off very fast due to culture of this generation. He says, “Looking at the youngsters who we want to educate about a certain application… instead of giving them a user manual, we have to use video clips to educate them because this is how the new generation is learning.”

Mr. Phua Boon Chung, Director of Enterprise IT at the Defence Science & Technology Agency, oversees the enterprise application realm. Their key focus is rapid application development. This has come about from users asking for faster, cheaper, and new solutions. Heasks whether the necessary skills are aligned to the business. When you look at what has changed with the expectations, the desires and requirements are set at a higher standard than it used to be. This is creating a challenge for organisations to bridge this skills gap.

Mr. SeahHou Liang, Associate Programme Director in the Information Systems Technology and Design Pillar at Singapore University of Technology and Design, works on research and tapping into new technology solutions. He thinks we need to assess how fast the population would like to transform and the abilities they have to meet that demand. He finds that agencies have to look at addressing this challenge holistically.  They must find the priorities and skill set required to help drive digital transformation.

The conversation then addresses how agencies are adapting to the rapid change and demands from the app economy. Delegates were asked have you identified the changes needed, to adapt your business to meet this digital transformationand with the rapid speed of change, how do you manage your software development? For the first question, most delegates (80%) feel they are still working on identifying the changes needed. This may be a result of the ever changing environment of service virtualisation. With the second, the majority (80%) of delegates report that they are managing software development externally. The need for outside collaboration and knowledge is evident when dealing with the development of software.

On the topic of rapid speed of change,Mr. Sagar says that there is no blueprint to service virtualisation and we need to constantly adapt to the changes occurring. He says it has to be a combination of internal and external. Mr. Limsaid that when he first started at Temasek, there was a central IT department. After rapid technology development, they realised there was a need to segregate the department in order to meet the needs of software development. Mr. Lee suggests outsourcing the development and having a team to develop innovation that they do not have experience with, in a short period of time.

We see a world where everything is changing towards the digital. This requires us to shift our way of thinking. Change is also about bringing innovation and collaboration together. “We still have a lot of questions about where we are going, what we are trying to achieve, what needs to be done,” saysMr. Sagar, “Not all of our knowledge needs to sit with us and be held and secured, we need to differentiate between that. Singapore sees that challenge and wants to embrace it, so let’s take it on and let’s go on the next journey towards service virtualisation. We accept there may be failure, but there are for more opportunities for success.” As we see technology changing at a rapid pace, we must also be ready to pass this intelligence on to the next generation of the public sector. Moving into an app economy requires agile movement to meet a growing demand. When thinking about this journey towards service virtualisation, ideation will be the differentiation. We must think about what we can do in our organisation to make this change happen now.

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