Posts tagged ‘public service’

 

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.

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“It’s not faddish to try to get policies and services right for the communities that rely on them”

Article: In Defence of Design: far more than jargon (2MB)

Our Article: In Defence of Design: far more than jargon (2MB)

In our recent post Six thoughts for the Centre for Public Sector Design’s future CEO we put forth our advice to the incoming CEO of the Centre for Public Design. At the time we also reflected briefly on academic J.R. Nethercote’s ‘Recruiting the ‘charisma’ to innovate‘ – 7 February 2012. Following this, the Public Sector Informant (Canberra Times) took us up on our offer to respond in print.

Here is the article ‘In Defence of Design: far more than jargon‘. We hope our thoughts add to the thinking on design and innovation in the public sector.

Thanks to Markus Mannheim, Editor of the Public Sector Informant, for this opportunity.

 

Update: Here’s a link to an online version of the article.



There was big news in the public sector design space a couple of weeks ago when the Acting Deputy Secretary for Industry and Innovation Ken Pettifer, announced plans to hire a CEO of the Centre for Public Design (the actual Department and Centre names are more wordy but we’ve shortened them here).

We noted a number of references in the broader service design community. People in our network – both local and international – have also been in touch with us for our take on the Centre.

We think the idea of setting up such a Centre is important in terms of placing design thinking at the forefront of public services. We’ve all seen enough poor examples of administrative, legislative, policy and technical implementations to prove the need. But we also think that there are some lessons that should be learnt from those who have gone before, or the whole Centre could end up a well meaning white elephant!

So, as designers who have been involved in the development of public sector design in theory and practice for over a decade, we thought we’d capture what our advice would be to the incoming CEO. Here’s our top six thoughts:

  1. The methodology is NOT the most important thing – it is important but the Centre will also need to get in there and do stuff early.
  2. Don’t move slowly – don’t let the phrase ‘capability building’ be an excuse not to act.
  3. Measure EVERYTHING that you do – build the case and make sure when people are doing conference presentations about their wonderful design project it actually made a difference for the community.
  4. Do more than ‘assure’. After a few months you’ll realise the job is really really hard. If you hear yourself say “I think we are just going to focus on best practice models and assure other Departments’ work” you’ve failed. Assurance is a vital component but nowhere near as vital as actually supplying resources and collaborating on actual design projects.
  5. Do what is right for you. We understand the relevance of the Mindlab approach, but we also love lots of international and Australian design consultancy models (and there are plenty). So don’t just pick one up and try and implement it. Be clear about what you are trying to achieve and what outcomes you are seeking and then deliver it yourself. Sure – learn from others, but OWN your process and practice.
  6. Don’t limit your network. Sure there are rules and processes for appointing and engaging with people but get out and about in our service design community. Be at the drinks, be at the conferences, but most importantly come and see how we and plenty of others work – we are all really good sharers ;)

As a post-script, the excellent Public Sector Informant (now a part of the Canberra Times) has published a stirring critique of the concept of the Centre by academic J.R. Nethercote ‘Recruiting the ‘charisma’ to innovate‘ – 7 February 2012.

Nethercote has some legitimate concerns about what might happen with the Centre (many of which are echoed in our thoughts above) but he seriously underestimates the importance and need for the Centre itself. The vocabulary of the Department may be a bit waffly in the advertisement for the CEO, but in our minds the need for design (and in particular service design) thinking to permeate every element of policy design and administrative implementations of that policy is absolutely non-negotiable.

We’ve approached the Informant to present a response to Professor Nethercote’s skepticism, we look forward to the opportunity.

Postscript: We were taken up on our offer and here is the article ‘In Defence of Design: far more than jargon



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