ICT Governance Education Program: A health case study

With the transformation to a digital government comes a wave of high-impact ICT-enabled projects.
Two years after the establishment of a Mia-facilitated ICT Governance Education Program to streamline project delivery, Kate Nolan (Director Information Management) discusses how the program has improved ICT governance processes at Ballarat Health Services.

ICT Governance Education Program - BHS

According to Kate Nolan, Director Information Management for Ballarat Health Services (BHS), the vast majority of significant projects being undertaken at BHS – whether corporate or clinical – are ICT-enabled.

This is a reflection of the massive digital transformation underway across the entire Victorian public sector. In order to realise the vision of a digital government, the number of ICT-enabled projects is escalating across all disciplines. Whether or not they are high-value projects, they are usually high impact, since they invariably result in significant changes to business processes.

ICT oversight required

Ballarat Health Services is a large regional hospital, with multiple ICT-enabled projects underway at any given time. Ms Nolan’s team needs technical and business oversight of every one of these – yet sometimes they were getting caught by surprise.

“It wasn’t always clear how people were defining projects, and who was taking responsibility for them,” Ms Nolan says. “Sometimes projects would start without the right steering committees established, or systems purchased without a clear management or implementation plan. We needed to establish a process for IT to have oversight of all ICT-enabled projects from beginning to end.”

Ms Nolan was among the first wave of senior information officers to recognise the potential benefit of participating in an ICT governance training program introduced in 2015 and facilitated by Mia. The ICT Governance Education Program is designed for public sector personnel at various senior or executive levels, particularly those sitting on steering committees and governance boards for ICT-enabled projects – spanning project sponsors, end-users, program directors, information officers and other stakeholders. The workshop component involves a mix of theory and role-playing scenarios – all focused on governance and its role in providing an independent and accountable oversight of ICT project delivery.

Improved understanding means improved processes

After completing the program herself, Ms Nolan subsequently encouraged several others of her team to complete it as well. One of the key outcomes for BHS has been the growth in understanding of project governance as a whole – from identifying the initial need, through defining the business case, all the way to ensuring the project is delivered and achieves the required benefits. More importantly, this has been translated at BHS to improved governance processes.

“The training really reinforced the need to be frank and fearless when on a steering committee,” says Ms Nolan, who is a member of several steering committees for ICT-enabled projects of various sizes. This includes a regional Electronic Medical Records project involving the implementation of a shared medical record platform across the Grampians Region.

“We’re not just there to receive information; we’re there for checks and balances, so our role is to be active and keep asking questions. This is important irrespective of the value of the project. We always need to understand why we’re investing money and what the desired outcomes are.”

To aid with this, BHS has incorporated content from the training documentation into global templates for business case requirements, structured status reports for monitoring projects, and steering committee terms of reference. Steering committees are established and defined by role to ensure the right mix of representation, and operational aspects are clearly differentiated from governance. With all roles and accountabilities defined up front, projects are now being implemented more efficiently and effectively.

“In addition to all the changes we’ve made as a result of the program, I also valued meeting the other participants, who came from a broad cross-section of the public sector,” Ms Nolan says. “Many were not from Health backgrounds, and hearing about their experiences in government projects helped broaden my perspective of all projects.”

Background – ICT Governance Education Program

In recognition of the learning curve associated with the digital transformation underway across the entire Victorian public sector, an investigation into government ICT-enabled projects was conducted by the Victorian Auditor-General’s Office (VAGO) a couple of years ago. This led to the implementation of an ICT Governance Education Program in 2015 to improve ICT project delivery across the whole of the Victorian Government.

Sponsored by the Enterprise Solutions Branch within the Department of Premier and Cabinet (DPC), the ICT Governance Education Program is designed to strengthen capabilities within the Victorian Public Service in line with the Victorian Government Information Technology Strategy 2016-2020. The core of the program is a two-day workshop, facilitated by Mia, encompassing development of business cases, definition of roles and responsibilities, project management, ICT governance and critical decision-making.

Interested government participants should send an email to EnterpriseSolutions@dpc.vic.gov.au.

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