Complacency is likely to be Australia's biggest enemy as federal and state governments struggle to achieve the outcome-based approaches to steering transformation that will be the key to the nation's future economic prosperity.
And really significant transformation is unlikely to come until Ministers are prepared to take a far more proactive leadership role in helping agencies achieve the cross-agency collaboration that will be necessary to that goal, according to Todd Ramsey, IBM's global leader of government industry.
Ramsey has been visiting Australia to talk to governments about the vital role they will need to play in creating an environment in which innovation, coupled with technology, can drive prosperity in the face of an unavoidable "speed bump": the rising cost of social obligations related to aging populations. With the demographic shift caused by an aging world population creating a global problem with far-reaching consequences, Ramsey is promoting a new report from IBM done in conjunction with The Economist Intelligence Unit: Securing Future Prosperity: How Governments Can Be a Catalyst, which argues societies that want to innovate must focus their actions around talent, investment, and infrastructure.
He says governments must initiate immediate actions to maintain fiscal control (so that increasing social security costs do not crowd out investment in innovation) and adopt an outcome-based approach to steering transformation. The report argues that governments tend to focus on the outputs delivered by individual agencies rather than the public value expected by their clients, an approach which pre-empts cross-agency collaboration and hence limits the scope for savings,
Instead Ramsay says governments should immediately launch and sustain innovation strategies to enable growth, arguing that the nature of innovation today demands new forms of collaboration among governments and citizens, across traditionally separate disciplines, and even beyond country and corporate borders
During the first two waves of their efforts to enhance their "e-readiness," governments have focussed on how to make their own offerings more acceptable. The next two waves demand they start thinking about solving the customer's problem and making government transparent to that customer. That requires significant integration of government processes.
"You need infrastructure integration, you need technically common HR back end systems, you need more integrated systems with customer data so you can do multiple things across different departments, ministries or whatever as part of doing it," Ramsay says.
The ultimate aim (wave four) is to not only integrate government, but to integrate value, he says. That means thinking much more holistically about how to serve government customers and then becoming a catalyst for bringing those customers the services and capabilities that can also provide an economic return, whether by helping a small business to create jobs or by driving efficiencies in the delivery of health and social services.
"What you're aiming for in these four waves- the ultimate being what we call On Demand government - is outcomes that are good for society," he says.
However Ramsay says Australia is taking longer to get into wave three than it should because it lacks a sense of urgency that would move the country forward in the absence of an immediate crisis that can provide a spur, the way 9/11 provided a catalyst to security agencies.
"Politically, budget wise, economically, things relative to the rest of the world are pretty good here in Australia. That's good news if you live here, but in terms of precipitating change it tends to make you a little less focused on why you need to change," he says.
And he says Australia is currently lacking the "proactive senior leadership" that could help to drive the process of integration.
"At the risk of being hated by the customer set I don't think there is a hands-on leader. There are leaders who want to do this. . . but they have yet to understand the hands-on proactive role they may need to take to make this thing work," he says.
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