Eyes on the dials – how to keep up to date on the Victorian Government’s ICT Strategy

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The Victorian Government publishes regular updates on achievements against its ICT Strategy in a publicly available dashboard. With a look backwards over the last year, forwards to the coming year and a ‘state of the nation’ snapshot of all large ICT projects, this is an invaluable source of information for any organisation wanting to plan its government engagement approach.

For those of you working in the technology sector and selling into government, you no doubt have a good understanding of the Victorian government’s ICT Strategy; what it is aiming to achieve and the projects being implemented to support it.

Direction and priorities

As a reminder, the Government, via the Enterprise Solutions Group within the Department of Premier and Cabinet, published its 2016-2020 ICT Strategy in 2016 and outlined a range of supporting projects. The Strategy doesn’t dictate all the ICT initiatives to be undertaken across Government but it does set the direction and priorities to which ICT investments must be aligned.

As I have stated previously, having a clear ICT Strategy is a sensible approach as it enables whole-of-government efficiencies to be achieved through common standards, technology, collaboration and practices, whilst providing individual departments and agencies the ability to take responsibility for their own initiatives and investments within an agreed framework.

Progress of projects

It also gives an insight and understanding of the range of projects being undertaken inside the Victorian Government, and its agencies. The recommendations of the strategy are that each year the Government publishes:

  • A Progress Report on the previous year’s activity
  • An Action Plan on the upcoming year’s activities
  • An ICT Project Dashboard showing the status of all ICT projects within government that are budgeted at $1M or more (more on this dashboard later, as it provides some revealing insights).

The Progress Report for 2017/18, and the Action Plan for 2018/19 can be read on the Enterprise Solutions web site at:

https://www.enterprisesolutions.vic.gov.au/

Whilst the Progress Report doesn’t get into any great detail, it does report the status of the 30 Actions that were planned to be implemented throughout 2017/18. Of particular note are:

  • the introduction of legislation to outline how data can be shared across government whilst providing protections and safeguards for its proper use
  • the completion of the Procurement Systems Statement of Direction
  • the launch of Service Victoria with its first tranche of digital transactions for citizens, and
  • the development of a review paper on the impacts and opportunities from new technologies such as the new payments platform and blockchain.

This year’s priorities

For 2018/19, the Action Plan has a focus on 4 key areas. These are:

  • Information and Data Reform
  • Digital Opportunity
  • Technology Reform
  • Capability Uplift

and it is worth reading through the Action Plan to understand each initiative and its timing.

The dashboard

Now, let me come back to the matter of the government’s ICT Dashboard which, to the government’s credit, provides a terrific snapshot of the business and ICT transformations happening across departments and agencies. It also shows to industry that whilst there may be some frustration with the Government’s embrace of technology, there is a lot happening. The dashboard shows that, as at the end of June, there were 251 projects in flight, with a total budget of over $1.7B!

Information on these projects is available in a way that enables analysis by agency, by project type, by budget, by completion status and even by implementation methodology (the increasing use of Agile and Lean methodologies can be seen). For vendors seeking to undertake market analysis and gain insights, this is extremely valuable. For example, it shows that the top five government domains for ICT strategy project budgets were:

  • Health
  • Environment
  • Transport
  • Central Government, and
  • Law.

It may surprise to see Environment at No 2.

And the top five organisations for ICT strategy project budgets were:

  • DHHS
  • VicRoads
  • Dept of Justice and Regulation (DJR)
  • Dept of Environment Land Water and Planning, and
  • Public Transport Victoria.

Delving further into the data it can be seen why DJR is up near the top. This is because of the significant projects underway in Victoria Police, as well as the projects underway in Courts Victoria.

Digging for detail

There are also some interesting pieces of information sprinkled throughout the Dashboard that require further attention. For example, would many Victorians know that the Service Victoria project is now officially recorded as “closed” on 30 June 2018 at a cost of $96M. Further, it is stated that the project came in on-time and below-budget. Which is a little surprising considering the budget allocated to this project was stated many times as being $81M.

So, what has been achieved for $96M? I can only assume that we now have a robust, user-friendly, innovative platform that will have significant additional functionality added to it over time, given the goal of Service Victoria is “to enhance the delivery of government transactions with citizens, enable the delivery of a more effective customer experience and create new distribution channels for simple high-volume transactions”.

However, there does not seem to have been much publicity to promote this new “customer experience” to Victorians. At the moment there is a very limited range of transactions that citizens can undertake, with what seems like most of these transaction processes simply taking the user through to the web site of the agency responsible (e.g. Ambulance Victoria to renew your Ambulance membership, Victoria Police for Police Check, State Revenue Office for the First Home Owners Grant and Consumer Affairs for Rental Agreement information).

Given that Action #11 in the Year 3 Action Plan for 2018/19 includes rolling out new transaction types to be available through Service Victoria, this situation will hopefully improve quickly.

ICT strategy as a precedent

Having shown what can be done with reporting against the ICT Strategy, the Victorian Government has hopefully set a precedent that can be followed for other major project types such as infrastructure, transport, and building (especially in the new School, and Health and Human Services building programs).

ICT has become the benchmark, and the Victorian Government deserves much credit for regularly reporting on the status of the ICT Strategy implementation and for making the status of their ICT projects so transparent.

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