6 tips for optimising your government ICT op model

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Being able to execute strategy and deliver value is critical to the success of any organisation. For government departments and agencies, where bottom lines and KPIs translate into services that impact the quality of people’s lives, there is an added level of gravity to achieving these goals. 

In today’s landscape, digital transformation is a key whole-of-government strategy. The COVID-19 impact on remote work pushed cloud technologies into prominence early and an effective information and communications technology (ICT) operating model has taken on increased significance. 

More than ever, ICT is the backbone of government services and capability – but maintaining its health is often overlooked. Its ability to meet strategic goals, and provide cost-effective, digitally-enabled services to staff and citizens is compromised. Here’s how to get it back in shape by adopting an effective ICT operating model – covering people, processes, governance and technology elements.

ICT op model challenges 

When optimised, working smoothly and effectively, government departments and agencies likely won’t notice how well their ICT works – such is the lot of information technology. But when things are out of whack, complaints come in thick and fast. Everything is a little bit harder, a little bit slower and more reactive. 

Hallmarks of ICT operating models that need some love include siloed functions, narrow areas of focus, lack of ICT function oversight, lack of visibility over compliance and costs, disparate technology operations and usually, unclear ownership of the different pieces. This is not always a sign of bad management – often ICT models get a little fuzzy around the edges because of organic growth. As needs increase, if resources or capability don’t keep pace, people naturally find ways to get what they need by implementing their own shadow IT solutions. Partly because of this unstructured growth, ineffective governance structures around decision-making become more likely, and there is a resultant impact on the speed of delivery and quality of service. Costs balloon and duplication becomes commonplace.

The good news is that all is not lost, and in fact, given the changes we’ve seen in the last few years, now is a really good time to get things back on track. With state and federal governments implementing whole-of-government IT strategies, there is an opportunity for department or organisational ICT structures to evolve and leverage the principles and benefits of these solutions in order to work collectively and gain greater efficiency.

Tips for success

The path you choose will determine your level of success. Here are our top tips for ICT op model change success:

  1. Co-design and communicate for buy-in – When designing your new operating model, communication – and who you’re communicating with – is important. Leadership teams need to be involved from the start, both to ensure that they have skin in the game and in order for them to champion the change, communicating with staff throughout the process. Communication needs to be active and two-way, ensuring all stakeholders – including employees – are consulted early and listened to, with refinements to the design and plan made as necessary. Clarity on the case for change is a must have.

  2. Commit change, carefully – Consultation around proposed changes (or the development of proposed changes) needs to happen early and include all the stakeholders involved in making the change a reality. This means bringing in union representatives, as well as workplace relations and change management professionals to ensure that your changes will be signed-off and planned for adequately, well before implementation begins. Without the right people and a proper organisational change management plan, your new model will simply be ignored or worked around.

  3. Plan ahead (and behind) – Think about what your operating model needs now and in the future and be realistic about capacity needs. What could future demands of government, and thus ICT services, look like? There is a need to be proactive and forward thinking (QBR planning will help with this) but at the same time, with resources traditionally being project-based and finite, there needs to be planning for future ‘business as usual’ – which includes the maintenance and on-going support costs of all services being implemented now and going forward. Without this resource and capacity uplift built in for legacy solutions, the op model will continue to get bogged down and fail to capitalise on its optimisation.

  4. Uplift your capability – To future proof and uplift your team’s maturity, think about areas to invest in as part of future growth. What are the needs of the government in five or ten years? To shape services around those needs (and prevent losing confidence of the wider organisation) now is the time to invest in capabilities that will help you navigate, such as enterprise and solution architecture, DevOps, cybersecurity, cloud optimisation and infrastructure management and business engagement skills.

  5. Transform your tech – As technology within your organisation moves to cloud via adoption of Software as a Service (SaaS) and Platform as a Service (PaaS) offerings, dedicated IT resources to manage on-premise infrastructure will be needed less. As the tech evolves so should the tech roles, shifting to relationship management with vendors and, as cloud becomes key, monitoring spend to avoid costly blowouts.

  6. Governance for government – Governance is critically important, but it needs to be the right kind and relevant for the organisation. Review established forums and strip away those that have become ineffective. Then ensure that the forums you do have are clear on accountability and decision rights so they meet their intended outcomes. Furthermore, investing in tools to capture data and draw insights will enable you to govern your technology effectively considering costs, adherence to compliance and usage. 

The time is now

Addressing your ICT operating model makes sense on a number of levels. It is an opportunity to bring ICT staff together to work closely with the wider organisation and partner on smarter IT solutions. Doing so will help minimise cost and reduce duplication and help development of effective ICT services. By strengthening governance and process alignment, speed of delivery of service will increase, BAU and projects will be properly costed and resourced and people will be able to excel, and upskill, in the areas they are needed in. Uplifting the maturity and capability of the team will benefit employees (via career progression, positive culture and work environments, skills development etc) and ultimately, citizens on the other end of government services. 

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