What are the challenges of Digital Transformation

Nov 18
Author:Ash Natesh
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In a span of 4 weeks more than 1 in 8 Australians will seek to access Government information online. According to Shelter et al 46 % of Australians experience problems using those services in the market at the moment. Only 16% of the Australian population regard the government as doing a good job in providing digital services. While citizens expectations are influenced by the use of facilities like Uber, Netflix & Amazon, government services continue to fall behind.

For citizens the falling behind on digital services has lost trust in the government. Governments have so far proven dis-satisfactory in the digital services space.

Ongoing, shared and amplified experiences of substandard service compared to what citizens enjoy in the rest of their lives, corrode public faith in the ability of government to deliver what it has promised citizens.

Radical improvement of government services is needed to focus on user outcomes instead of agency-by-agency interactions which is required to restore trust in government and help avert a similar crisis of legitimacy. To those seen across other Western democracies, where previously unseen competitors both electoral and commercial are increasingly feeding off public discontent.

There is a need for strong digital leadership

Digital  transformation requires strong leaders who are active from both ministers and departmental secretaries. This leadership will help provide a mandate for change in the digital space.

“This will help overcome institutional inertia to introduce appropriate business, funding and delivery models, build capability in the public service and sponsor delivery of cross-government programs and reforms.”   Shelter et al


  • Government should increase the level of competition for senior appointments, and indicate that promotion to SES Band 3, 4, CEO or secretary roles requires proven digital leadership qualities.
  • A cross-government board of senior digital champions at the deputy secretary level, all of whom are identified as candidates for promotion to secretary, should act as the prime cross-governmental digital governance group. Members of the group should be incentivised to meet transformation objectives: healthy competition between ambitious public servants will help to transform public services, whereas existing governmental structures and practices may deter risk-taking and encourage stasis — and, in some cases, penalise cross-government collaboration.
  • Senior leaders should be encouraged to attend immersion tours to businesses in Silicon Valley, London, Israel and China to see digital delivery and best emerging practice in the commercial world.
  • Chief Digital Officers should be hired for each agency that provides significant transactional services to the public.The CDOs should be responsible for reforming the services in their entirety: the ensemble of policy, systems, people and interfaces that comprise the service from the perspective of the end user.

Developing Capabilities

Years of outsourcing to contractors and having people on and off projects has affected the quality of the service. The report recommends government to hire digital specialists (which at the moment even the DTO lack) and also train staff in digital services as the future is moving towards digital.

The lack of skills at the moment is due to the lack of digital programs in government. There is also a shockingly low retention rates of digital specialists. None of the no skills program currently available properly equips Australian Public Servants with skills required to lead digital transformation in their agencies.

In Shelter et al’s opinion, it is inevitable that automation will have significant effects on the shape of the public service, including reducing the need for some low-skilled roles that exist today. Delaying this process will not be enough to avoid it.

Learn how to embed a digital first culture that fosters innovation from the private sector digital expert Angela Donohoe, Chief Information Officer, BPAY Group at the Public Sector Digital Transformation and Optimisation Conference, 19-20 February, Canberra.

Submitted by Ash Natesh

Ash Natesh

Ash is the Content Marketer at Criterion Conferences. Writing and sourcing content is all part of her day to day routine. She can’t stop drinking coffee, other than coffee her interests lie in Music, long walks amidst the mountains, Dance, Anime, Science Fiction and all things nerdy!

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