Previously, in The Digital Promise is now the Business Reality, we discussed how we have seen ‘digital’ mature and drive a service evolution – to make it possible to move from transactional to interactional services.

The interactional service construct highlighted in our first post described a public service where:

  • ‘The Business’ within a public service agency should set the direction and outcome; ICT should enable interaction and resolution.
  • The notion of ‘digital’ as a separate end-to-end service won’t last but its significance won’t go away.
  • Interactional Services are based on the notion that digital transforms the service relationship (both inside the organisation and with clients and users), it doesn’t just automate current processes or service offerings.
  • Internal and external customers of public service ICT shops will continue to rely on traditional ICT disciplines for platforms, applications and infrastructure but use ICT professionals’ knowledge and expectations of how technology and data can transform the service relationship to develop business direction.

#Disclaimer 1 – we aren’t saying that these conditions don’t exist in some agencies now, but we are saying the service direction tends to currently be set and defined by ICT because of investment in technology, not because of a strong service view from ‘the business’.

Interactional service drives a new integrated investment

It’s called the ‘public service’ for a reason. Government chooses, through the collection of topics in portfolios, to offer services to the public as the means for compliance with the rules and regulations of the land.

Some of those services are supportive, some restrictive. All require a range of interactions from information to transaction to compliance and should be about supporting both people to deliver the service, and to be supported in their experience of a service.

When we say ‘Government chooses’ it’s important to remember that Government chooses what services it offers. For example, no one in the public wants to register a business name – they are told they have to. Therefore, this means the public service’s management of service must be constant, reliable and professional.

We have seen the public service become the public sector – where large tranches within organisations find it harder to tie a direct line between themselves and the services they have chosen to deliver, becoming an industry unto themselves. This industry can then become easily removed from the notion of public service. This is particularly relevant when looking at how ICT as an industry drives the public sector organisation.

But interaction services demand more, they demand integration or investment because often the technology and business component can’t easily be separated.

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‘Buckets’ of money

The current operating reality in the public service is that investment has been given in ‘buckets’ to the ICT Shop. These buckets are managed by asking the ‘business’ for candidates for technology design, build and delivery. The effective outsourcing of service build by agency Executive teams to the CIO has been gradual and is reflective of the move to enterprise ICT from the mid-90’s on.

The result of this approach to managing investment is that the candidate-based approach supports individualistic approaches to funding (which we would say is not true investment). The strategic direction of the organisation itself is also at risk as programs of ‘build projects’ create a disconnect from the service offering the organisation has made to the public.

This investment approach results in the standard BaU versus Change argument. As business candidates build up, supply can’t meet demand (often because of poor project management by ICT and poor project ownership by Business) and the only solution is an organisation-wide transformation program to get things ‘back on track’.

In short – transformation is sometimes just code for losing the link between ICT investment and the service strategy for the organisation.

But interactional services offer a much more integrated investment opportunity.

 

This view shows no run and change, no BAU versus new business. It simply implies that ALL investment is part of a balanced program of work – driven by the service offering of the organisation. In this model, an organisation:

  • Doesn’t ask about candidates; they ask about total investment in service.
  • Sees a reduction in the investment in the now and running, optimising, improving.
  • Sees an increase in the investment in the new, the evolving, the innovation.

This approach to total investment is key to getting away from the annual candidate shopping mentality of change projects that underpins modern, enterprise ICT program management.

Parallel Organisation’s within an Organisation

The outcome of the current investment model is that the Business and ICT become so large in spite of each other that they start to mirror their operations. Almost forming parallel organisations within the one.

Anyone who thinks this is an exaggeration should remember that once your business project gets approval, it almost always requires ICT approval to actually proceed.

The key to dealing with the parallel organisation is to call it out. Map it. Make it clear that it isn’t business that is transparent and ICT that gets to be a multi-billion dollar black box.

The investment model for interactional services demands that ICT integrates itself into business investment planning, so that business understands what the total investment in their service offering is, from their end-to-end. That is, policy > user need > service touchpoints > outcome > measures, not from Deployment to support.

From Parallel to Integrated

In a traditional organisation with transactional services the candidate-based, program management style investment in ICT works fine. Utilising ICT disciplines as discrete enablers of a business strategy makes sense and this matches the notion of traditional waterfall (and even some Agile) development approaches.

But interactional services operate in an integrated way they are not a ‘direct’ product offering from the organisation to the client. They are:

  • Often data initiated.
  • Automated, not just at task-level but pre-emptive of customer need.
  • Customer-controlled at start and end points.
  • Outcome-facilitated by systems working with systems.

Crucially, this means internally, ICT is not just responding to business on a ‘cost for delivery’ model for discrete projects or products. It has to be able to quantify what the existing investment is by the organisation in the interactional service (from customer-facing interfaces right through the mid-range and COTS to infrastructure and cloud).

This is because the transformative nature of interactional service means that elements of the digital capability might have initiated the service without waiting for a transaction point to occur. The trigger for the service is the underlying knowledge of the client transformed into a service proposition that matches the organisation’s business goals (compliance, information, registration, payment).

Therefore, the organisational investment model needs to be re-thought and re-positioned as Integrated Service Investment.

In our next post we’ll expand on how this investment model influences both the ICT Management Model and broader public service organisational design.