Agencies have used ICT to adapt to a tight budgetary environment, according to the Australian Public Service Commission’s (APSC) State of the Service Report 2012-13.
During 2012-13, the efficiency dividend of 1.5 per cent was combined with a one-off additional dividend of 2.5 per cent.
The APSC identifies MyGov and Standard Business Reporting (SBR) as ICT initiatives that have helped drive efficiencies at the departmental level by reducing compliance costs for citizens and minimising back-office functions.
According to the Report, 2013 saw “an expansion in the willingness of agencies to ‘build once and use many times’ so as to exploit economies of scale and standardisation to reduce costs and improve productivity”.
In particular, the Parliamentary Workflow System (developed by the former Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations for whole-of-government use) and pilot testing of a collaborative APS-wide approach for designing management skills programs reflect the potential savings available from building once and using many times.
The APSC cites the development of its whole-of-government employee survey (which informs the State of the Service Report) as an example of this ‘build once, use many times’ approach, estimating that it saves the government about $4 million per annum by reducing the need for each agency to conduct its own employee survey.
Shared services was also viewed by agencies as a way to adapt to shrinking budgets.
In 2012-13, 67 per cent of agencies participated in a shared service arrangement. According to the APSC, a shared service arrangement is any consolidation of existing business functions into a separate organisation unit.
ICT was the most common shared service used by agencies during the period with 35 per cent of agencies participating in such an arrangement.
The APSC also divulges the potential for a future reform to scale down the use of Enterprise Resource Management systems amongst agencies.
“An example [of reducing cost pressures] is work currently getting underway to examine the case for fewer (in some circumstances, a single) enterprise resource management systems to provide financial management or human resource management information to agencies. Any such move will take time to implement efficiently,” states the report.
The Department of Finance was allocated $2.8 million in the budget to “undertake a detailed study of the costs and benefits of rationalising the number and type of Enterprise Resource Planning systems used in the Australian Public Service”.
According to the APS Commissioner Steve Sedgwick, there were four areas in which the APS had room for improvement: workforce planning, performance management, change management and work assignment and delegation.
ICT Staff Content
In 2013, 9 percent of non-SES respondents to the employee census indicated that they worked in an ICT occupation.
Approximately one-fifth of ICT employees revealed that they intended to leave their agency in the next 12 months. Most employees that revealed they wanted to leave their agency in the next 12 months still wanted to remain in the Australian Public Service (APS).
However, ICT employees were more likely than other employees to indicate that they intended to be employed in the private sector in 12 months. The APSC admitted that this “may reflect wider market conditions” rather than dissatisfaction with the APS.
When asked why they want to leave in the next 12 months, ICT employees most frequently cited a lack of future career opportunities in their agency, poor quality of senior leadership and the desire to try a different type of work.
Notwithstanding these findings, more than half of respondents in an ICT position wanted to stay at their agency for at least the next three years.
Skills Shortages in ICT
The report revealed that, once again, agencies experienced significant skills shortages in ICT. ICT experienced the highest level of moderate and severe skill shortages when compared to other job families.
34 per cent of agencies experienced limited shortages in ICT staffing, 30 per cent experienced moderate shortages and five per cent experienced severe shortages, with the ICT job roles that experienced the greatest skill shortage being in security, development and programming, business process analysis/design and program-project management.
According to Intermedium data, the ICT Labour Hire market displayed a smaller slowdown than the overall ICT market, which fell by 17 per cent between 2011-12 and 2012-13. Over the same period, ICT labour hire contracts fell by 12 per cent, from a total value of $863.9 million in 2011-12 to $763.3 million in 2012-13.
In 2013, 78 per cent of Federal Government agencies had fully developed telework strategies whilst only eight per cent had no strategies at all.
According to the APSC, telework includes all arrangements whereby “an employee has a formal agreement with their employer to work in a location other than the office”.
The overall number of employees with an active teleworking arrangements decreased in 2013, according to the State of the Service Report.
A total of 10 per cent of APS employees indicated that they teleworked to some degree in 2013, down from 15 per cent in 2012.
However, the movement away from telework was not due to technological barriers.
The majority of APS employees that did not telework in 2013 indicated that teleworking was not an option at their agency, suggesting that the development of teleworking strategies has not always been accompanied by changes to workplace culture and structures.
Employees who were teleworking were indifferent between their home and agency ICT environment. When a difference did exist, most responded that it did not impact their ability to work.
Seven per cent of teleworkers believed that their home IT systems increased their productivity and had a positive impact on outcomes.
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