Please find attached the Digital Transformation Agency's submission in response to the APS Review.
Digital Transformation Agency
Submission in Response to the APS Review
Submissions due 31 July 2018
Digital Transformation Agency
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Digital Transformation Agency Response .......................................................................... 1
1 Solid foundations – recent successes and the role of the Digital Transformation Agency ............ 2
2 The APS Review and the Digital Transformation Agency – working towards common goals ....... 3
3 We’re making progress, but there are big challenges ahead ........................................................ 6
3.1 Changes to current settings .................................................................................................... 6
3.2 New settings to account for a digital age public sector ........................................................... 8
4 It’s a bright future ahead .............................................................................................................. 13
References .......................................................................................................................... 14
Digital Transformation Agency – Submission in response to the APS Review iii
Digital Transformation Agency Response
Organisations worldwide are rethinking how they operate, respond to, and take
advantage of, the opportunities presented by digital transformation. Banks are using
virtual reality to overcome the barriers of distance. Airlines have moved from providing
flights alone, to helping customers have a seamless, end-to-end travel experience.
Even households are smarter thanks to digital advancements that let them save
energy, improve convenience, and be more secure. Across all domains, digital and
data are helping to improve the convenience and quality of our interactions with the
Governments are rethinking how they work to improve outcomes for people and
businesses, and seizing opportunities presented by digital transformation. There are
successes in the APS’ digital transformation journey, however there are structural
improvements needed for the APS to forecast, and respond to, the rapid changes in
society and the economy. The APS needs to evolve to accommodate the different
collaboration techniques, engagement practices and overall approach to business in
the digital world. Creating an APS that is fit for the digital age will require a fresh look
at current settings. It will also require new skills, processes and culture that accounts
for a digital-age public service.
This submission demonstrates the sound footing for digital transformation in the APS,
the close alignment between the APS Review and the Digital Transformation
Agency’s (DTA)’s objectives, and the DTA’s key recommendations to allow the
Australian Government to cement itself as a global digital leader.
Digital Transformation Agency – Submission in response to the APS Review 1
1 Solid foundations – recent successes and the role of
the Digital Transformation Agency
The Australian Government, among its international peers, is delivering on the
promise of digital transformation to make more informed policy decisions, to engage
users in program design, and to deliver more streamlined, tailored services.
There are many examples of digital transformation successes in the APS: The
Business Registration Service streamlines and reduces the time it takes to register a
new business. Very soon, the myGovID pilot will reduce the time taken to get a tax file
number from one month down to just a few minutes.
These are just a handful of the dozens of projects being delivered each year to
improve outcomes for Australians.
Australia is among world-leaders in the digital transformation of government. We
consistently rank near the top in international reviews, from major public institutions,
such as the United Nations’ (UN) E-Government Survey (United Nations, 2018), to
multi-national consulting firms, as in Boston Consulting Group’s Digital Government
Services report (Boston Consulting Group, 2017). As a result, our advice is regularly
sought by our international peers.
The DTA is driving change that is resulting in services that are simpler, clearer and
faster. We place Australians at the centre of all that we do, delivering services – and
helping government agencies to deliver services – that are designed around the
needs of those who use them. The DTA is delivering major improvements through
digital transformation in the APS, including:
• Leading changes to platforms – such as myGov and the recently-announced
myGovID – that will make it easier for citizens and businesses to engage with
• Delivering quality advice to government on the digital investment portfolio,
based on data and oversight that has not existed previously.
• Capability programs that lift digital capacity and capability at all levels of the
• ICT procurement reforms that open billions of dollars’ worth of government
business to small and medium enterprises (SMEs), and deliver better value
from arrangements with larger suppliers.
For a full explanation of the DTA’s role in government, please refer to the DTA’s most
recent corporate plan (Digital Transformation Agency, 2017).
The DTA is well-placed to help the APS address the challenges and opportunities
ahead. This submission identifies some of the immediate challenges for the APS to
respond to today’s digital transformations, the implications of digital transformation
into the future, and the DTA’s recommendations to affect change in these areas.
2 Digital Transformation Agency — Submission in response to the APS Review
2 The APS Review and the Digital Transformation
Agency – working towards common goals
Ingrained into the DTA’s ethos is an unwavering commitment to people using
government services. Our products and whole-of-government approaches help prime
the APS to make the most of digital and data. The DTA’s ongoing work will improve
outcomes for people and businesses, with line-of-sight to the objectives of the APS
The APS Review The DTA: Future work will:
• Is driving innovation in the • Encourage the APS to look
Digital Driving innovation economy through at new ways of designing
transformation is and productivity in procurement reforms, services in partnership with
creating new the economy. opening government ICT industry and the not-for-
markets and new expenditure to smaller profit sector, underpinned
ways to deliver businesses while deriving by digital and data.
services; often better value from the APS’
displacing those relationships with big • Take procurement reforms
we know. vendors. further, lifting participation
with industry – particularly
• Hosts the Digital SMEs – other governments
Marketplace that, since its and academia.
launch in August 2016, has
contracted $206m, around
70% of this to SMEs.
• Through data.gov.au, is • Drive the underlying
Digital and data Delivering high opening access to data systems and capability that
transformation quality policy held by governments at all will empower the APS to
create advice, regulatory levels, providing more make better-informed,
opportunities for oversight, robust evidence for data-driven decisions.
the public programs and government decision
service to services. makers and the • Take a fresh look at how
develop more community. the APS makes decisions
around digital and ICT,
and make better
• Through its capability including how to fund
programs is helping projects.
leaders in the APS to better
understand how digital
transformation can help to
meet government’s policy
Digital Transformation Agency – Submission in response to the APS Review 3
The APS Review The DTA: Future work will:
• Runs the Digital Service • Open up engagement with
Digital Tackling complex, Standard, mandated for people, businesses,
transformation multi-sectoral use across ICT projects, academia, industry and
creates challenges in that requires agencies to other governments – locally
opportunities, collaboration with collaborate with people and and internationally.
and the community, businesses to design
expectations, for business and services. • Help break down barriers
better services citizens.
between agencies through
• Conducts user research to life event journeys, showing
find key pain points when how services need to
people interact with connect to improve
government (such as outcomes.
through our GovX
• In partnership with the • Build trust into government
Cyber security Ensuring our Australian Cyber Security systems, through
enables trust and domestic, foreign, Centre, and the Australian engagement, transparency
is central to any trade and security Signals Directors, and strong cyber security.
digital and data interests are encourages good cyber
transformation. coordinated and security practice from the
High levels of well managed. outset through guidance on
trust create more digital projects across the
opportunities for APS.
4 Digital Transformation Agency — Submission in response to the APS Review
The APS Review The DTA: Future work will:
• Pioneered the Digital • Break down barriers
Private Improving citizens’ Service Standard, now between agencies through
companies experience of mandated across life event journeys that
compete for government and government ICT projects clearly show how services
market share by delivering fair that encourage co-design will connect to improve
offering services outcomes for with citizens and outcomes.
that are more them. businesses to ensure
convenient, more services are designed
accessible and around peoples’ needs.
• Leads implementation of
platforms, such as
myGovID digital identity, to
• Runs the Building Digital • Equip the APS to attract
The pace of Acquiring and Capability program (in and develop enough digital
change in maintaining the partnership with the APS talent to embrace new
technology necessary skills Commission) to lift the policy opportunities.
creates new and expertise to number of people with
policy fulfil its digital skills in the APS – at • Challenge current ways of
opportunities and responsibilities. all levels. thinking that can relegate
technology to a back-office
need to know
• Hosts communities of function, rather than having
how to take
practice, and runs training, a transformative impact.
for APS staff to share
knowledge and build on
how to marshal
their existing digital skills.
or develop new
Digital Transformation Agency – Submission in response to the APS Review 5
3 We’re making progress, but there are big challenges
The APS Review’s terms of reference reiterate the major influence of digital
transformation in society and the economy. Positioning the public service to respond
will take determination and renewed focus on transformation across the spectrum of
public service activity – including policy advice, regulatory oversight, and program and
Changing some current settings will allow for a more contemporary, digital public
sector into the future.
3.1 Changes to current settings
Set a clear and ambitious direction for digital transformation in the APS
The Digital Transformation Agenda, delivered by the DTA, has resulted in significant
improvements in the APS’ digital capabilities, when compared to its starting point
three years ago:
• Foundational platforms are being developed.
• A more complete view across the ICT portfolio exists where it did not
• ICT procurement reforms are improving value-for-money and making it easier
for SMEs to compete for government business.
It is timely to review the Agenda and set an updated direction for the future. The DTA
is developing a digital transformation strategy that is closely aligned to the goals of
the APS Review.
McKinsey & Company’s research points to strategy as the first foundational pillar of
successful digital transformation in government (Corydon, Ganesan, & Lundqvist,
2016). This is clear in the results of the international benchmarks, with all of the top
10 countries in the UN E-Government Index having robust and ambitious digital
strategies (United Nations, 2018).
Budget processes to respond to the changing landscape
Deciding where to invest is a challenging task with many perspectives to consider.
Current budgeting processes respond to many of these perspectives, though digital
initiatives add new considerations and complexity. Budgeting processes should
recognise the fast pace of change in technology, where the best solution to a problem
today may be obsolete in just a few years’ time. Similarly, budgeting processes
should support new models of working in the digital age, such as incremental, agile
6 Digital Transformation Agency — Submission in response to the APS Review
approaches to delivery or cloud-based solutions that are purchased more like a utility
than owned as an asset.
Future budgeting processes could help government make more frequent, smaller-
scale decisions, helping to adapt to new technologies sooner. This would allow the
APS to respond to emerging risks and changes in the policy context. It would also
help ensure that budget decisions – at the time they are made – are still relevant in
the current context.
Incentives for whole-of-government change
Digital transformation (and indeed, service design more broadly) cuts across
government portfolios. The hierarchical and policy-portfolio structures of government,
while necessary for efficiency and policy leadership, do not always correlate to the
way people engage with government. These structures also create complex
management and approval processes, amidst competing priorities, that often
succumb to the status quo.
The APS Review should examine where structural incentives could be tweaked to
improve collaboration – including accountability, incentives to share investments or
partner with agencies, or work together to address funding or technological barriers.
Critics note the “competitiveness amongst some agencies” that “hamper[s] the speed
of digital adoption, typically at the expense of customers” (Australian Information
Industry Association, 2017). Project assurance is one such example. There are some
views that the DTA should be involved in governing individual projects, however this
is resulting in blurred accountability in an area where the DTA has little direct control
over a project’s success. Governance over whole of government change is one
aspect that could be reviewed.
By extension, the Review could consider how the APS might better partner with state
and territory governments, civil society and the private sector to deliver more effective
outcomes (refer, for instance, to Mr Brightwell’s example for more effective and
efficient elections in his submission (Brightwell, 2017)). Digital transformation is a
global challenge, with other countries setting the pace and standards. The APS needs
to engage internationally with the same enthusiasm and priority as its local
engagement to ensure Australia’s interests are represented, and that collaboration
with international peers is promoted.
A fresh look at risk
Digital transformation requires a renewed appetite for risk. There is an opportunity to
revise the current tolerance for risk, through public discourse, to enable more
ambitious innovation. Research published by the Australian Institute of Company
Directors notes that the public service “adopts the risk appetite of its stakeholders –
the public” and that, “broadly speaking, their risk appetite is close to zero” (Kay &
Goldspink, 2016). Innovation, by definition, increases the risk of failure. Mr Ian
Brightwell’s submission (Brightwell, 2017) presented to the recent Senate inquiry into
Digital Transformation Agency – Submission in response to the APS Review 7
the Digital Delivery of Government Services suggests that the APS does not manage
expectations by addressing this “inevitability”. The submission goes on to suggest
consensus is required to determine what constitutes “acceptable failure”. Digital
transformation requires a discussion on what constitutes acceptable risk (with a view
to moving away from zero-tolerance), and the change through innovation that is both
expected and acceptable within these bounds of acceptable risk.
Setting a frame in which to innovate, where a certain amount of risk is tolerated by the
APS’ key stakeholders, will encourage agencies to explore newer and better ways of
delivering services. The process of learning from innovation is of equal value to the
deliverable itself. When captured succinctly and shared openly, these learnings
become a catalyst for further innovation.
3.2 New settings to account for a digital age public sector
Research of the future paints a picture of a world that is more connected, more
productive and more efficient – driven extensively by digital transformation (Innovation
and Science Australia, 2017; CSIRO, 2016). The research notes the economic
prosperity driven by the mining boom now receding and making way for a knowledge-
based economy (citing Australia’s strength in artificial intelligence and medical
technology as examples). It also emphasises the need for Australia to escalate its
innovation efforts – lest we fall behind our international peers who are investing more
in research and development – and seizing the opportunities of digital transformation
This creates a dual challenge for a digital-age public service. It needs to become a
data- and digital-native organisation to improve its own efficiency and effectiveness –
this includes leadership, willingness to innovate and embracing risk. At the same time,
public servants need a thorough grasp of how digital transformation changes the
fabric of society, so they may design policies, programs and regulation that are
relevant in a digital world.
Data- and digital-native organisations
Disruption through digital and data creates new opportunities – and expectations – for
organisations to recalibrate themselves. Forecasts suggest that, by 2030, Australia
will face a shortage of full time workers; a deficit in productivity that needs to be filled
by automation through digital technologies (Innovation and Science Australia, 2017).
Becoming digital-native will not only help the APS to deliver better outcomes, but also
make sure it can fulfil its core obligations to the public it serves.
The APS is making inroads through technologies that improve the customer
experience and reduce the cost of service delivery. For instance:
• The Australian Taxation Office and IP Australia created “Alex”, a virtual
assistant which, through artificial intelligence, can respond to first-line queries
that would otherwise need to go through a call centre.
8 Digital Transformation Agency — Submission in response to the APS Review
• Enhancements under the Welfare Payment Infrastructure Transformation
Program are leading to substantially reduced times to process claims for
• The Data Integration Partnership for Australia is giving new policy insights by
connecting Commonwealth-held datasets, leading to improved policy advice
and better-targeted service delivery.
These achievements are a significant first step, and they show a willingness to
harness new ways of working. Broadly consistent with thinking by McKinsey &
Company (Corydon, Ganesan, & Lundqvist, 2016), two further significant steps are
needed for the APS to remain a contemporary digital organisation over the next
The first step is to develop a culture of “digital by default” in all pockets of the APS, so
that digital delivery and thinking becomes the norm. Denmark’s “digital first” approach
legally mandates electronic interactions (United Nations, 2018), with offline
alternatives for those who cannot access digital versions. Denmark’s pursuit of this
goal coincides with the country’s rise to first place in the UN’s E-Government Index
The second step is to better harness technology to improve effectiveness and
efficiency. Increasingly, the technology services used by the public service can be
standardised, or even commoditised, so that APS employees can focus on the core
business that makes their agencies unique. We see this already in the increasing
array of cloud services that can provide cost savings and performance improvements
over on premise installations; a concept that will grow in scope and impact over the
coming decade (Innovation and Science Australia, 2017).
In this time, the APS will need to be prepared to automate parts, or all, of many roles
that are integral to how the APS operates today. Consider, for instance, how artificial
intelligence could process a set of rules or legislation to lay the foundations for legal
advice. How machine learning, combined with a broad array of sensors and data
inputs, can evaluate the effects of policies and programs in real-time and forecast
changes well in advance of field work or clinical trials. How an open and
well-connected data infrastructure with plain English querying could compensate for
the current shortage of data analysts and lead to better-informed policy. As well as
these, there will be many technologies that emerge in the years ahead. The overriding
principle is that the APS needs to be able to respond quickly to these opportunities.
Public engagement and user-driven approaches
Digital transformation starts and ends with people. The CSIRO (2016) observes the
megatrends that will shape the world over the next 15 years, many of which point to
changes in what people expect from their government services.
Digital Transformation Agency – Submission in response to the APS Review 9
Rising wealth leads to rising expectations for services and experiences (as opposed
to products). Increasing globalisation means people and businesses expect to deal
with international counterparts with the same agility and fluidity as they would with
locals. So too do the boundaries between private and public services begin to blur.
For example, in the transition from school to work, a person typically deals with a
state-based education department, a federal government employment service, the tax
office, and outside the APS, a bank or superannuation provider. With better user-
centred design, the APS could feasibly and within the next few years create a
seamless experience that helps reduce downtime between school and work.
Understanding peoples’ needs and involving them early in the design process leads
to government services that are more likely to be successful. A new public
engagement model, where ideas around service design can be openly discussed
before being decided, can help increase innovation in the APS. Democratic
engagement and consultation of this nature also increases the likelihood of success in
implementation and the ongoing use of the service. This understanding will help to
define the standards for success, allowing for more tangible and robust assessments
of the value delivered by digital solutions. As people become more digitally-connected
over the coming decade, the APS will have new opportunities – and expectations
upon it – to connect with those who use its services, and harness this relationship to
continually and regularly improve the quality of its services.
Building and Maintaining Trust
Digital transformation creates global challenges that can build, and break, public trust.
The Edelman Trust Barometer (Edelman, 2018) shows the technology sector is the
most trusted of all business sectors, however recent breaches of individuals’ privacy
could quickly undercut this trust.
Building and maintaining public trust requires government to show continued vigilance
and commitment to engagement, transparency, privacy and cyber security.
As the world becomes more connected, and the breadth and depth of information
grows exponentially, cyber security threats become more complex and sophisticated.
Through sound analysis and understanding of these risks, and using forecasting to
minimise the effects of such risks, the APS can maintain the trust it is granted to
protect the information it holds on behalf of people using its services. Good cyber
security design and effective responses to emerging risks help to engender trust in
government’s ability to provide services. The CSIRO (2014) presents plausible
scenarios over the next 10 years that show the potential damage of unforeseen cyber
security breaches. It also suggests collaborative investment and action to strengthen
cyber security in Australia, with engagement across governments and the private
Australia’s own data reforms will serve to increase peoples’ trust through greater
control and transparency, with protection of privacy and security at the core.
10 Digital Transformation Agency — Submission in response to the APS Review
Agile and iterative service design
New technologies are being adopted so quickly that the APS cannot afford lengthy,
bureaucratic processes that delay time-to-market for new solutions. Consider that it
took radio 38 years to attract an audience of 50 million people, television took 13
years and the Internet only three years (Innovation and Science Australia, 2017). By
the time the next project is scoped, costed, budgeted, planned, developed, tested and
then rolled out, it is foreseeable that a new technology could have come along to
By contrast, agile and iterative approaches to designing and implementing services
help organisations respond to changes in context, learn from failures and limit risk by
scaling down the size of the investment. Agile approaches are supported by an
increasing body of literature (for instance, Serrador & Pinto, 2015) and international
best practice (for instance, OECD, 2014). The Global Centre for Digital Business
Transformation highlights many organisations that have responded to demand and
mitigated risk by allowing ‘fast execution’ – the shortest time possible between
concept and minimum viable product (Bradley, Loucks, Macaulay, Noronha, & Wade,
2015). By taking a large problem and breaking it down into smaller pieces,
government can begin delivering solutions faster. Starting with a small and quick
solution reduces cost and risk to the immediate challenge ahead. Delivering a working
solution faster – even if it is for the smallest, most essential need (or ‘minimum viable
product’) – allows society to start harnessing the benefits of the solution sooner, and
allows government to respond quickly to feedback and risk. These approaches apply
equally to digital services, as they do more broadly to policy and program design. In
fact, such approaches have been applied in these latter domains for some time, for
example, by rolling out programs to selected communities first. Embracing these
methods more fully, including by structuring governance processes to support them,
will help government deliver value faster and reduce risk.
Given the pace of change in technology, digital capabilities will never remain static.
Understanding the transformative impact of digital and data, and being able to turn
this into better policies, programs and services, is a necessary skillset ubiquitous
across all levels and roles of the public service – it is not simply limited to the
technology arms of public service agencies.
Building strong digital skills across the public service is a worldwide challenge, – for
instance, as described in the United Kingdom’s Government Transformation Strategy
(Government Digital Service, 2017). The first step is to build an understanding of
digital technologies and how to deliver outcomes through digital projects, as per the
Building Digital Capability initiative under development at the DTA and the Australian
Public Service Commission (APSC). However, future capability across the APS needs
to empower public servants to better understand the impact of digital transformation
on society, so they may create policies, programs and regulation that are relevant for
Digital Transformation Agency – Submission in response to the APS Review 11
the time. For instance, the CSIRO’s ‘Porous boundaries’ megatrend (2016) indicates
a rise in the peer-to-peer economy. We see this already in the growth of ride-sharing
services, or peer-to-peer lending, or ‘gigs’ for small tasks. These digitally-enabled
peer-to-peer interactions make it much harder for government to regulate services,
such as ensuring protection of workers who are not contractually employed. These
services can also gain and lose market share very quickly; potentially at a faster pace
than the current processes for implementing regulation can keep up with. Being able
to forecast these types of trends, and develop solutions that are flexible into the future
is the major digital capability challenge over the next decade.
The private sector will always be in a position to offer to offer a fresh perspective
when it comes to digital transformation. The APS works closely with private sector
providers to elevate digital skills, and assist in policy and program design through
digital transformation. As technology evolves, it will become clearer which specialist
skills will be required (for instance, capabilities in using augmented reality to assist in
better service delivery), and there will be a need to build – or transition – skills in APS
staff around these specialist areas. There will be new roles that may best be delivered
in partnership with the private sector or with academia. The impact of digital
transformation is set to grow, and amidst ongoing competition for skilled workers
(Innovation and Science Australia, 2017), it may also be necessary to increase the
proportion of the permanent workforce in the APS that work in digital- or data-heavy
roles. In short, digital transformation in the APS will be best served by harnessing a
diversity of skills across public and private sectors, academia, different tiers of
government and the people who use government services. The key is to ensure the
public service builds the capabilities that allow it to deliver on its core business and
partner externally where it does not make sense to maintain those skills in-house. The
ability to partner externally in an effective way is itself a unique skillset to be
recognised and developed in order for the APS to make best use of the breadth of
skills in the market.
12 Digital Transformation Agency — Submission in response to the APS Review
4 It’s a bright future ahead
The DTA is well-placed to deliver on the objectives of the APS Review. Our goals are
As the agency leading digital transformation across government, the DTA has created
a solid foundation to help the APS respond to change, including recommendations to
come from the APS Review. Our work is helping to address the challenges ahead.
Our digital identity platform is creating a backbone to join up digital initiatives across
government. Our capability programs are building digital skills in the APS. Our
procurement reforms are delivering better value for money and creating the space for
the APS to partner with industry and innovate. Future work on platforms, such as Tell
Us Once, will build on the core infrastructure needed for holistic improvements to the
experience of people using government services.
The DTA looks forward to working closely with the APS Review team, and continuing
its leadership across government to make services simpler, clearer and faster.
Digital Transformation Agency – Submission in response to the APS Review 13
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