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Australian Government Digital Transformation Office CEO, Paul Shetler, driving rapid service delivery improvement

The Australian Government Digital Transformation Office is actively working to improve online government service delivery throughout the country. It is estimated that within a month, over 1 in 8 Australians ages 14 and older, will search online for government information and services. It was found that 55 percent faced problems while trying to utilise online government services.

This situation is one the Digital Transformation Office hopes to address.

OpenGov recently spoke to Mr. Paul Shetler, CEO of the Australian Government Digital Transformation Office (DTO). Mr. Shetler was brought to the DTO from his previous role with the UK’s Government Digital Services (GDS). He is now leading projects focused on improving public sector service delivery in Australia.

Mr. Shetler told us more about his main areas of focus, what he expects the future will hold for the DTO, and how he believes cross-agency collaboration will be key to transformation.

Department of Sport and Recreation as a Leader in Digital Transformation

Mr. Marc Dimmick, CIO, Department of Sport and Recreation, Western Australia & Content Director, OpenGov Asia was in on the conversation. He shared with Mr. Shetler his journey towards digital transformation, acknowledging that Mr. Shetler’s tasks at DTO are ambitious yet necessary.

“In the next 16 to 18 months, the transformation will be enormous,” said Marc Dimmick, “That is why it is important to get these leaders together to talk about these issues.”

Mr. Dimmick had then prompted the discussion of the opex and capex dilemma, to which Mr. Shetler was responsive. Mr. Dimmick relayed to Mr. Shetler that although he had well-thought out upgrades in mind, it was always difficult obtaining the budget to support his plans due to the opex and capex dilemma.

“This came as a real surprise to me when I came here from the UK - we did that all the time. Everything we did was cloud based, scalable, and easy to maintain,” Mr. Shetler said.

Mr. Dimmick shared how the work he has done at his Department has led to an almost complete shift to cloud services. “My department is working to lead this shift to the cloud as we are almost 85 per cent switched over, four blades left in the house; we no longer do backups, that is in the cloud; we have shut down regional servers, and we put fibre around the region, strangely everything seems to work!” he exclaimed. Mr. Shetler empathised with Mr. Dimmick’s journey and added that the other agencies should follow his lead.

Agile Service Delivery

The DTO has created a Digital Service Standard for the Australian public sector which agencies can use to guide their service delivery improvements.

Mr. Shetler and his team are currently working with a number of Commonwealth and state/territory government agencies on an initial series of six Digital Transformation Programme projects, including:

1.       Improving appointment booking services with the Department of Immigration and Border Protection,

2.       Improving the International movement of goods and Australian Import services with the Department of Immigration and Border Protection,

3.       Improving retirement planning and senior citizen entitlement services with the Queensland Government,

4.       Improving outpatient appointment booking services with the ACT Government,

5.       Improving business registration services with the Department of Industry, Innovation, and Science, and

6.       Improving Medicare enrolment services through the Department of Human Services.

Throughout the design process for each project, there are four stages: Discovery, Alpha, Beta, and Live. Throughout these four stages, DTO will research user needs, map out the service landscape to identify any constraints, and build prototypes which explore ways to meet the users’ needs.

Working on these projects requires a fast-paced, flexible and agile approach. “When we talk about agile delivery, you need to be able to order something on the same day. Procurement governance is there to enable delivery, not slow it down.

“This is one of the biggest issues we are dealing with right now,” said Mr. Shetler, “Our governance and procurement processes do not support quality of delivery expected by the user.”

It is clear that the team at DTO have a lot on their plate; in addition to managing these six projects, they are also responsible for the development of a nationally federated digital identity framework.

Trusted Digital Identity Framework

The DTO has been tasked with building a Trusted Digital Identity Framework for the whole of Australia. A nationally federated digital identity would improve efficiency, increase security measures, minimise costs, and ease the authentication process. These benefits were accepted by government as legitimate cause to create the framework.

DTO has just arranged for an expert to come in, join the team, and lead a formal discovery journey. This is because there are a lot of forms of identity and DTO must recognise what the users’ needs are.

“We need to figure out what we need to solve. What are the needs, the myths, the constraints, the applications, and the laws of identification,” said Mr. Shetler, “We must have ample time to make sure we are not rushing into a preconceived idea of what we should be doing before identifying the problem.”

Mr. Dimmick told Mr. Shetler that he is already looking to integrate digital signatures into his Department to help reduce and remove the need of wet signatures, and that he would be keenly watching progress on the the Trusted Digital Identity Framework.

Alpha prototype for GOV.AU

Also in addition to the Digital Transformation Programme, the DTO recently announced a nine-week design process to create a GOV.AU prototype that would be built around the citizens’ needs, rather than government’s structures. W

With response to what the challenges were in creating such a prototype Mr. Shetler stated, “There are many levels as we must consider, jurisdiction, ownership, and many other things. But we are working on it.” He looks to Singapore’s Government Portal as a model for GOV.AU.

What next?

In 2016, Mr. Shetler will continue to look at data sharing and knowledge sharing across the whole of Australian government. "We're building a view of these analytics across the whole of government so we can improve the total experience of dealing with government," a DTO blog entry by Pia Waugh states.

Mr. Shetler plans to continue discussions with his colleagues across the country over the next few months to get more input and insight into the current IT landscape in Australia.

“We have to hold ourselves accountable and make things very transparent. Processes must be more agile, lean, and at the end of the day, public services will be in much better shape than they were 10 years ago,” Mr. Shetler said,

“What has happened in the UK is that people have realised that digital is here to stay. The GDS did that, and it has since spread across the whole of government. This has influenced teams and the policies they are creating. This digital transformation process has had a deep impact on the UK.”

Mr. Shetler is looking to capitalise on his learnings from working with the GDS and help drive further digitisation projects and influence cultural transformation to improve service delivery throughout the Australian Government. His department will be unveiling more about the development of their projects within the next few months.

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