Transformation not just about technology

Australia’s Public Service Commissioner has outlined the challenges of digital transformation, saying it’s about more than just technology.

Peter Woolcott

“When we talk about digital we’re talking about a concept that is broader than technology,” Commissioner Peter Woolcott told the Digital Summit 2019 in Canberra last week.

“It involves new ways of working, with the line between digital and non-digital roles becoming more and more opaque.”

Referring to  the UK Joint Information Systems Committee’s definition of digital capability, Mr Woolcott said digital capabilities referred to capabilities which “equip someone to live, learn and work in a digital society”.

Digital roles were increasingly being seen in policy design, program management and regulation, he said.

While digital specialists can offer understanding of how technology can help service provision, the focus should always be on the needs of the person using the service.

Embedding user researchers into policy teams

Mr Woolcott said the government was embeding “user researchers” into policy teams to gain an insight into the impact of service design on users as well as their needs, motivation and behaviour.

“The Australian government will start to embed user researchers into policy teams to better understand people’s experiences and emotions when dealing with the government,” he said.

He said user research had aleady been used and had proved “extremely powerful” for example in revealing differences in experience between a person with cancer and someone diagnosed with dementia.

“This has gone on to inform better policy advice to governments based on the lived experience of real people,” Mr Woolcott said.

Not enough people to meet skill demands

Another challenge along the road to digital transformation was the lack of skilled people.

Without adequate supply of skilled professionals, organisations are struggling to fill the roles needed, Mr Woolcott said, and a wider net may have to be cast to find individuals with the relevant skills.

“It is critical that our digital workforce, as with the rest of the public service, is as diverse as the people who are here to serve it, including diversity of thought,” he said.

“This increase will help us design better programs, policies and services for the Australian community.”

Mr Woolcott said Australia should look at other countries, like the UK and Singapore, which have established more formal training to fill the digital skills gap, to see how they are addressing the issue and learn from them.

“It pays to look at what our counterparts in other jurisdictions are doing to address these skill shortages,” he said.

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One thought on “Transformation not just about technology

  1. We should also not forget the value of adding ‘staff’ (rather than ‘business units’) as users of internal policy, especially HR and IT policy. At the moment, the experience of staff trying to access internal services to do their work often remains back in the 19th and 20th centuries, and there is significant frustration and loss of productivity. Our public sector HR/IT/Corporate Services should be leading by example.

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