The Digital Transformation Agency’s chief executive Gavin Slater has laid out five core priorities for the agency responsible for driving the government’s digital agenda.
Slater – the former National Australia Bank exec who took over from Paul Shetler in April – said during an address to the AIIA that he has met with “hundreds of people in government and the public service, including secretaries, CIOs, advisers and ministers, businesses, vendors, industry associations and advisory firms”.
“These multiple conversations, including those I’ve had with many of you in the room, have allowed me to repair relationships, and importantly, build new ones,” he told the audience.
“People are appreciative of being treated respectfully, being heard, being listened to and being involved in our work and helping to come up with solutions. The value from these conversations is that they’ve also helped me to shape the priorities of the DTA going forward,” he said.
Slater was hired to get the government’s digital transformation project back on track following the resignation of Paul Shetler in November last year. Shetler was hand-picked in July 2015 by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to lead the agency before effectively being demoted from chief executive to chief digital officer last October.
He resigned less than six weeks later and in January said his decision to leave the agency was down to a philosophical clash with minister, Angus Taylor.
The DTA’s first priority, said Slater, is to develop a clear service delivery roadmap for the whole of government to ensure money is being invested in transformation initiatives that will have the biggest impact on digital services.
“For example, being able to register a company more easily, onboard staff, or sign-up and receive welfare payments,” he said.
The second priority is to focus the public service’s “collective efforts” to improving the core platforms that support big service transactions and life events, he said.
“It shouldn’t come as a surprise. This means there needs to be ongoing regular delivery of increased functionality and improved user experience across platforms like myTax, myHealth, myGov, and business-facing platforms,” he said.
“Related to this, there is a strong case to rationalise and simplifying the thousand-odd government websites and millions of pages of content that users have to navigate and understand. Let me be clear, I’m not saying one website is the answer.”
A key initiative underpinning this is solving the challenge of how individuals and businesses identify, verify and authenticate themselves through online channels, he said.
DTA’s third priority is to continue building out its capability to monitor the performance of the whole-of-government ICT project portfolio. Slater said it’s important that the agency approach this with a private sector mindset.
“For example, venture capitalists would treat this portfolio of projects as a portfolio of businesses they’ve invested in. They would be constantly scrutinising the performance of the portfolio to decide which projects they have low levels of confidence in – in terms of benefit delivery – and others that require an intervention to increase their chances of success.
“They would be constantly scanning the marketplace for opportunities to invest in new business and ventures,” Slater said. “I can’t see why we shouldn’t adopt a similar mindset when considering the government’s entire project portfolio.”
Ongoing monitoring allows the agency to identify successful initiatives, key delivery risks, areas of duplication, provide advice on remediation, and opportunities to leverage common platforms and cloud services.
DTA’s fourth priority is to continue to level the playing field for SMEs looking to do business with government. He said the government’s Digital Marketplace initiative has made a good start with 655 buyers, 533 registered sellers, and more than $33.7 million in contracts awarded.
“These stats show me that more needs to be done,” he said.
The fifth and final priority, said Slater, is to establish a sustainable program focus on helping uplift the digital capability of staff across the public service and address the skills shortage.
Slater plans to setup innovation labs in DTA’s Canberra and Sydney offices to bring in staff from across the public service to help them approach issues with a fresh perspective. This will expose them to customer-centered design thinking, rapid prototyping, building alpha and beta version, launching, measuring, and iterating.
“There’s a real opportunity here for us to partner with the public, private and educational sectors,” he said.
“The reality is that within the APS [Australian Public Service] we do not have all the capability and capacity that is needed to deliver. Partnering effectively with the private sector will be key to our collective success.”