By David Braue
Thursday, 22 October, 2015
Government Technology Review

Experimental designs, best-practice models and looming as-a-service tools are emerging on the landscape as the Digital Transformation Office (DTO) advances efforts to digitise government bodies by example with the launch of its first formal work program.

That program, announced in a DTO blog post by CEO Paul Shetler (read GTR’s recent interview with Shetler), will see the agency embarking on a nine-week project to prototype a framework “built around the users’ needs, rather than government’s structures”.

The project — which includes partnerships with agencies such as the ATO and Departments of Immigration and Border Protection, Human Services, and other projects all beginning their discovery phases — will seek to develop functional links across government to facilitate this user-centric design.

“Citizens shouldn’t need to know the tiers of government responsibility,” Shetler wrote.

Laying down a formal work program is seen as a significant step internally as it will provide a focus for the many goals the DTO has been championing since its establishment earlier this year. Also contributing to this is this week’s release of a beta version of its Digital Service Standard (DSS) — the overriding philosophy by which the DTO is structuring its transformation efforts — with updates including a new service design and delivery process; articulation of user, service and government context; a requirement to measure and report service-specific metrics; and more.

The beta DSS — which updates the alpha version released in April — also strengthens expectations around accessibility by “making the requirement for inclusivity more explicit to ensure we meet the needs of all users regardless of their ability or environment”, the organisation announced, flagging plans to document the user journey that departmental teams take when designing a government service.

This requirement around inclusivity — encapsulated in point 10 of the DSS’s 16 key points — is creating new opportunities for content companies like video-production company Viocorp, which is mirroring the DTO’s demand for ubiquitous accessibility considerations… manifested in the expectation that new services be WCAG 2.0 compliant, with a push for services such as subtitling to complement the expected surge in video-based interaction.

“As you have enterprises and governments exposing more and more complex and abstract things to be engaged with digitally, and you have an increasingly unsophisticated consumer base trying to use those, the way you communicate is much more critical,” Viocorp CEO Greg Miner told GTR.

“In the old world, people would be out at an agency branch speaking with people, or would be on the phone asking questions. But now we’re driving into a channel where there’s no human interaction. So, the media through which that is communicated are critical.”

That requirement will increase the expectation that all government content — whether textual, photographic or video (both static and live-streaming) — be wrapped in subtitles and other metadata to ensure a consistent experience for citizens. This requirement, in turn, would require staffing investments to manage tasks like subtitles — leading Viocorp, for one, to plan delivery of complementary content technologies like automatic subtitling on a software-as-a-service (SaaS) capability.

Gaining and normalising such capabilities is a key element of the digital transformation as painted by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) in its recent report Digital Evolution: Learning from the leaders in digital transformation.

In asking 444 healthcare, finance and telecommunications executives about the key attributes of their digital transformation, the EIU found companies spread across a spectrum of digitisation, with just 10% saying they were fully digital and a third saying their business was evenly split between traditional and digital practices.

Just 5% of respondents to the EIU study said they were able to present a seamless customer experience across channels — the very type of experience that the DTO is working to deliver with its latest program of work and the prescriptive DSS.

Much of this work is being driven by the demands of customers, with half specifying that the changing requirements of users in mobile environments had weighed heavily on their transformation work. Also critical was the need for real-time transactions, with 57% saying their transformation success hinged on the ability to provide employees with real-time data on any device, and executives with real-time analytics — described as “a foundational underlier” for transformation.

The EIU’s work also highlighted common characteristics of companies that are ahead of the digital curve… who are, the report noted, more likely to have multidisciplinary transformation teams to complement the CIO and were likely to have separate digital business units.

Transformation leaders were also more likely to be looking outside their organisations to gain new digital capabilities — for example, investing in digital start-ups and forming joint ventures and partnerships.

“Perhaps surprisingly, they are less inclined to invest in their internal capabilities,” the report noted. “But the fact that they are more likely to rate the digital transformation capabilities of their company’s functional departments highly suggests that they have started from a stronger position than those that are catching up.”

The EIU’s last finding echoed the DTO’s efforts to rebuild government agencies around flexible, service-driven architectures that will grow and change to meet evolving citizen requirements. “The ultimate goal of any digital transformation should not be any particular state,” it noted, “but the ability to transform constantly in response to the progress of digital technology.”

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