Digital government service providers are in a fortunate and rare position in Australia; citizens have high expectations of their digital interactions with public services.
Before we move to more sophisticated platforms like self-service portals, governments across the globe are scrambling to reduce the digital divide between those who live in remote areas. So although there is much work to be done to ensure Australian’s have the services they expect, we are already half way there when it comes to the adoption of digital services.
So what can governments do to meet the expectations of technologically savvy citizens? The Department of Industry, Innovation and Science’s Acting Deputy Secretary thinks the answer lies in developing an agile approach to government, and luckily, we covered his presentation that he delivered at CeBIT Australia last week.
David Hazlehurst, Acting Deputy Secretary of Innovation, Department of Industry, Innovation and Science spoke at the eGovernment 2017 conference @ CeBIT Australia on how government agencies can be more open and agile to cater to the vast numbers of citizens that are currently interacting with the many public services that are available online.
According to Hazlehurst, a recent survey revealed that 83% of those surveyed had interacted digitally with government within the last year. However, the respondents also stated that these interactions were slow and cumbersome. Hazlehurst acknowledged while government organisations do grapple with a range of issues (lengthy procurement processes, legacy processes and infrastructure), he argued that these issues impeded government from providing a great user experience.
So what does it mean for governments to be ‘agile’? To Hazlehurst, this means ‘changing our processes so that we deliver early, are responsive to feedback and are more collaborative.’
His team have used this approach with the redevelopment of business.gov.au. The team changed the focus from a platform where departments could outline policy to concentrate on the needs of businesses using the site. Take a look at the 5 lessons he and his team learnt when developing this new way of working:
1. The importance of air-cover (support from above)
Working with the user at the heart of your decisions is a departure for many senior ministers, so it can be quite disorienting for them. However, Hazlehurst argues that for digital projects to succeed, senior management must trust the process and empower their teams to do the job.
2. Your users should be in your team
Hazlehurst said that getting the projects to the level that they had would have been impossible without the consultation and feedback of the users. Your team is more than your employees, he argues, it is anyone that will use your site.
3. Develop your agile core
Take risks. It’s no use treating your important priorities as side projects. Hazlehurst said 'We committed to these projects. We started with our best people working on things we cared about and we gave them space. If we did it as a side project with a B team or C team, then we wouldn’t have got the results we did.’
4. Agile is not just ‘funky project management.’
Hazlehurst stresses that the user has to be at the core of everything you are doing, ‘without developing empathy and having the user at the centre of design, you’re going to have a subpar project.’
5. Be open
Hazlehurst says, ‘learn and share with others. The community are very generous, with their knowledge and with their feedback. Copy. Steal. Don’t think you have to do it on your own.’
The agile approach for Hazlehurst and his team hasn’t been an easy undertaking, but the rewards are great, and enjoyable. If Australia wants to provide their citizens with great online services, then they need to be open, collaborative and agile.