Government must be more innovative, more agile, to keep up with the private sector and the demands of citizens. In the digital space, the solution for many agencies has been the govCMS platform.
With a federal government insisting on greater innovation within its ranks, and a Prime Minister advocating a more Agile management approach, the demands on agencies to keep pace with the fast-moving digital, start-up world have never been greater.
A number of government offices got the jump with the govCMS platform, which has made it easier than ever before to implement web content strategies on a large scale, and within an Agile, iterative framework. And they’ve been able to do it without having to rewrite their entire web strategy from the ground up.
Agencies including IP Australia, the Australian Taxation Office and the Australian Financial Security Authority have used govCMS as a conduit for expanding the horizons of their digital and web strategies. They have started from a small base, and then used the success of those projects to tackle larger developments.The ATO was able to develop a new site for its annual report on the govCMS platform …”
The ATO was able to develop a new site for its annual report on the govCMS platform as a starting case for identifying other projects.
The agency wanted some more customisation on the front end of the platform. In anticipation of govCMS being implemented, the ATO moved their annual report site to the Drupal platform. As a result, the agency gained more control over the content, customisation, and became involved with the Department of Finance as govCMS matured.
Combining this iterative approach with the open-source Drupal platform also means agencies are able to benefit from collaboration across agencies and teams through the power of a unified technology solution.
With the ATO annual report site seen as an opportunity for the agency to show off the huge amount of work done during the year — and with a relatively low amount of traffic compared to the rest of the department’s web presence — the ATO say the site was a good test candidate. Now, other ATO sites are being considered for the govCMS platform.
Other ATO sites are now being considered for the govCMS platform, with the annual report site used a test case. There was no need for mass web migration — instead, the department was able to test, iterate and take the next appropriate step.
govCMS as the starting point
Other agencies have used the govCMS as a test platform before migrating an entire web presence. IP Australia has already launched its Professional Standards Board website, with an entire beta program for the rest of the agency’s web presence due in 2016.
But more importantly, IP Australia assistant director of digital delivery Scott Ashwin was able to iterate using the govCMS platform to provide extra, custom functionality that didn’t come in the basic package.
“I have an experienced team, so we took that basic package and we really pushed the boundaries,” he said.
The Australian Financial Security Authority has adopted a similar approach. Assistant director of service deliver Peter Moller says the organisation started with a long-term plan for moving the agency’s web presence to a single platform.
“We moved the PPSR website to govCMS, and basically the idea was that we would learn from the experiences of doing that and apply those to the corporate website later on,” he said.“We came out of the quick start program with a prototoype and we were able to feed that back to stakeholders.”
Moller said the agency was able to create such a website relatively quickly: “We came out of the quick start program with a prototoype and we were able to feed that back to stakeholders.”
One of the supporting principles of this iterative approach has been the adoption of Agile development methodologies, something Malcolm Turnbull emphasised in his first speech as Prime Minister in September. With more money being placed into fostering innovation, especially among technology, it has become important for government agencies to adopt this methodology and act as a leader in the space.
The federal government’s chief technology officer John Sheridan says one of the most critical aspects of adopting an innovative process with deployment of govCMS was the use of Agile development.
“We recognised that we needed a responsive way to take on projects,” he said, citing Sharyn Clarkson, assistant secretary of the Online Services Branch in the Department of Finance, as being responsible for the deployment of Agile methodology across the agency. “She developed the use of Agile methodology and has been rolling it into her projects including the govCMS space and it’s worked very well for us.”
In fact, Clarkson says, Online Services in Finance has been one of the leaders in driving the implementation of Agile development in government — productivity increased by 600% as a result of Agile adoption within the agency.
Getting Agile in agencies
The ATO has adopted Agile methodology for software development, along the Department of Communications and the Arts.
In particular, the latter was able to develop a completely new module for citizens to provide feedback during consultation processes — that module can be used by any agency within the govCMS platform, which can then tailor it to their own needs.
Akhil Bhandari, senior advisor, digital implementations at Communications, says introducing the department to Agile development has fostered a new type of innovative thinking necessary for these types of cross-collaborative projects.
“Using Agile sprints is something we’ve never done before,” he said. “It’s a learning curve, and it’s been interesting. But it’s been good to rapidly build things, and especially to build the things we need up front and then enhancing as we need it.
“It’s been quite good … we’re able to rapidly build things, build the things we need up front, and then enhance as we need it.”
AFSA’s Peter Moller says being able to start with a small project, and couple that approach with an iterative, Agile mindset, has introduced new opportunities for the agency.
“We’re also trying to leverage those skills elsewhere, build on that, and transfer those skills to other teams. We’re trying to spread the use of Agile where possible.”