Government agencies across Australia are firmly on notice that the time to get fully aboard the digital transformation train has arrived, with citizens and Ministers no longer willing to endure cumbersome, disconnected processes that leave citizens unable to conduct their business without leaving home.
As state and federal agencies prepare to embed changes to make secure remote access to systems from outside the office the norm rather than the exception, the urgent question facing public sector leaders becomes how to maximise the benefits from the big digital push.
It is no secret that the COVID-19 pandemic has been the biggest spur of digital advances in a generation, but there is still plenty of work to be done in removing the scourge of paper and onerous form-filling in the public sector.
Leapfrog manual legacy
For all the ideas about smartphone apps and AI-powered chatbots that have emerged in recent times, there is still a vast amount of paper stubbornly flying around between departments, both for internal use and dealing with citizens.
In the US it was calculated in 2018 by the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs that government agencies spend a combined $38.7 billion on paper-intensive, manual processes that have nothing to do with their missions. The numbers may be smaller in Australia, but the proportion of paper-based services is certainly comparable.
The COVID-19 era has kickstarted digital transformation in all kinds of industries, but the accelerator has really been pushed down across the Australian public sector, where the Federal Government is getting serious, with greatly increased funding to drive progress towards ambitious 2025 goals.
In September’s Budget, $800 million was pledged to help fund a digital overhaul of government business.
Digital gets decisive
As part of the plans, federal government agencies will be required to adopt electronic invoicing by midway through 2022 at the latest, with Prime Minister Scott Morrison saying agencies needed to be part of Australia’s economic recovery from the pandemic by removing barriers for all companies to do business with them digitally.
Speaking in November Minister for Government Services Stuart Robert said that, in 2021, a Whole of Government Architecture taskforce, led by the Digital Transformation Agency (DTA), will deliver a draft Government Business Architecture that will provide an holistic Government Business Model supported by architecture, platforms and a framework to drive and orchestrate cross-agency services.
“As part of this approach, the DTA is driving an APS-wide focus on identifying, sharing and sourcing reusable platforms. This means buying, building or developing once and reusing many times,” Mr Robert said.
“Right now, we have to approach a number of different providers for the end to end capabilities to deliver on a platform, which takes time and money on both the government and the industry side.”
Adaptive ecosystem meets cloud agility
When it comes to the reduction of paper-based services, pioneer and market leader DocuSign has become the go-to platform for secure authorisation and document and information services, having previously led the way by delivering highly functional electronic signatures.
While electronic signatures are a powerful enabler for digitising processes, there’s a multiplier effect that can be achieved when key parts of the document and information ecosystem neatly fit together and interoperate together in concert. With convenience, security and productivity a core objective, DocuSign has developed a suite of products – known as Agreement Cloud for Government, which becomes central in modernising forms, signatures, and agreement processes.
It comprises a suite of products that dramatically reduce both the environmental and time-burden for agencies getting things done.
The flagship eSignature product lets all kinds of business be conducted faster, agreements can be digitally signed securely from virtually any device, with up to 82 per cent of agreements completed in less than a day, and 49 per cent in less than 15 minutes.
Contract for success
This is complemented by DocuSign CLM (Contract Lifecycle Management) which records and automates large parts of the process that goes into signing a contract, and DocuSign Guided Forms, which provides a step-by-step, mobile-ready experience to help customers easily complete long or complex forms. This means the cycle time on making agreements with CLM can be reduced by around 75 per cent.
One example is the US state of California, where the government created an online marketplace for its longstanding agency Covered California, where citizens can sign up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act.
This involved providing citizens easy access to 11 different insurance companies and more than 14,000 certified agents, brokers, and community partners that provide advice and enrolment assistance.
Each of these organisations and agents needs an agreement in place with the government body in order to be allowed to offer services to citizens, and this ridiculously complex scenario of forms was transformed after it moved to within DocuSign’s Agreement Cloud.
It now has a fully automated digital solution that has reduced paper and ink, streamlined paperwork, dramatically sped up time to approval for agreements, while providing top level security encryption that can guarantee confidentiality of entity information and signatures, while allowing visibility of the agreement and process status to relevant parties.
Users speak out
Australian public sector users of DocuSign say its holistic approach helps bring previously disparate workflow elements together to get an accurate picture.
“With DocuSign we now have a single source of truth, we know what contracts are up-to-date and everyone is working to the same document,” said Danielle Watts, an Executive Officer in the Strategic Procurement team at Yarra Ranges Council .
In the US DocuSign has estimated there is a potential US$16.7 billion opportunity through digitally transforming every federal agency’s forms and agreement processes.
“The DocuSign digital solution is incredibly flexible. It allows us to include the necessary approvals and workgroups from many departments and to automate workflow. With DocuSign, our processes are much more secure, streamlined, and efficient,” Austin Walls-Barcellos, a project manager and information technology specialist at Covered California said.
While the scale is obviously not the same in Australia, a comparable shift in local processes, will save millions and demonstrate the digital competence of agency executives driving the change.
Mandate to act
It’s also clear that the digital change mandate is being driven from the top, with policymakers keener than ever to see real and lasting reforms to paper-age processes.
“The Governments’ Digital Business plan is targeted at building on this digital transformation of Australian businesses to drive productivity and income growth and create jobs,” Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said in September.
“The Digital Business Plan is part of the Government’s economic recovery plan to grow the economy and create jobs and supports our goal for Australia to be a leading digital economy and society by 2030.”
It’s time to get started.