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Guest Post: Role models drive innovation in Government ICT

by Don Easter •
Free resource

There has never been a better time than now for our government ICT leaders to innovate.

To state the obvious, citizens and businesses now have information technology in the form of faster networks, smart phones and mobile devices and they are demanding access to online government services. And they want that access to be easy to find and easy to use.

In this environment, government ICT leaders need to continuously drive to innovate, develop new ways of working and showcase solutions that put the citizens first in service delivery. The old ways of doing things will not be enough.

Many have already taken up the challenge with zeal.

One example is Australian Government Chief Technology Officer John Sheridan. John uses his own twitter account 24/7 to promote open government and accessibility on websites and blogs.

In the CTO’s department is Pia Waugh, part of the new generation of ICT leaders. Pia is a leader in Gov 2.0, making government data accessible and open. For her efforts she has been awarded the Gov 2.0 Innovator trophy as part of this year’s Australian Government ICT Awards Program. Keep watch for small companies doing amazing things with all of this data!

Gary Pettigrove at the Australian National Audit Office makes himself available to small businesses and keeps an open mind about his options. Gary's attention to detail in managing a smaller budget has delivered great results including an award winning website.

Many government ICT leaders are bringing their private sector experience to the public sector to great success as well.

In the Federal Government’s Department of Human Services we have an ex-banker, Gary Sterrenberg, driving collaboration and sharing resources with the aim of delivering services at a lower cost to those citizens who need them most. Gary leads a culture that recognises the different citizens DHS serves and delivers accordingly.

The Department of Defence, which has been more broadly working on cultural change, brought in Dr Peter Lawrence to use his commercial skills to deliver major reform projects that will drive down costs.

In NSW, there is a major plan to bring a customer-service orientation to the delivery of citizen services. Who have they chosen to lead this? A banker: Mike Pratt. Say what you will about banks, but they have been accumulating knowledge about customer service driven models for 20 years now. NSW recognises the importance of customer service and the benefits it brings, not only in terms of customer satisfaction but also in productive business processes that lower costs.

In Victoria, Grantly Mailes has also been brought in from outside. Here is another leader with a mix of public and private experience who focuses on the big picture. In announcing Grantly's appointment Technology Minister, Gordon Rich-Phillips, said Mailes “will initially focus on delivering better services, reducing waste, encouraging innovation and improving ICT procurement across government.” Interestingly responsibility for whole-of-government technology procurement in Victoria has been moved to the Department of Business and Innovation– not Finance or Treasury.

These leaders will all learn from each other. I know there is bilateral dialogue between these leaders in an informal way that is far more productive than turgid formal agendas. Collaboration that leads to consistency of practice makes it easier for suppliers and allows rapid adoption of new ideas. These benefits flow on to citizens.

However the challenges that these leaders face in reaching these heights should not be taken lightly.

To move to an innovative driver of rapid solution delivery is a risky business.

As someone who has been in technology for much of his life, I have witnessed large scale IT project failures, vapourware salespeople and implementations with high operational costs or which simply did not meet the requirements of the end users. To cut all this down into a simple sentence: the risks in IT correlate to the size and complexity of the projects.

ICT project managers have learned a lot, and Australia is a leader in the development of ICT Governance Standards. Methodologies exist to break projects down into more concise chunks with clear go/no go gateways. It is when these risk management practices are ignored that projects balloon over budget and out of control. It is for that reason that governments, such as the UK, insist projects are broken down into smaller deliverables with faster ROIs. Once bitten twice shy.

Fortunately for Australia I am seeing ICT leaders being appointed who take a customer approach to this dilemma. They seek to experiment and take measured risks and advance the Australian industry, as they understand the bigger economic advantages of having government as a reference client as well as having suppliers who deliver great value for money. Value for money is the core of every procurement policy.

There is also constant pressure on government departments to increase productivity and quality of service delivery and information technology is key to achieving that.

In a broader economic sense, Australia has to be a smart country. We have high wages, great education and a mature economy with leadership in areas such as financial services, infrastructure, and healthcare, all of which increasingly rely on information technology.

I talk to many Australian ICT suppliers. They want to be visible to government. They hail government buyers who support innovation and a willingness to give something new a go. They desire a government client who showcases their export potential. I see so many bright, well-educated and passionate people who believe in the Australian ICT sector so much. They see that in Gov 2.0 and beyond, business models can be proven in weeks not months or years. They know they have such excellent value for money service and solutions to provide.

Dear leaders, Australian ICT firms stand ready to deliver.

Don Easter

IT Supplier Advocate

  • Federal
  • Industry & Investment
  • don easter
  • Gary Pettigrove
  • Gary Sterrenberg
  • Grantly Mailes
  • John Sheridan
  • Mike Pratt
  • Peter Lawrence
  • Pia Waugh