Has the establishment of Service Victoria been delayed?
This was the question debated in yesterday’s Public Accounts and Estimates Committee hearing, the state equivalent of Senate estimates.
The Opposition argues there has been a “substantial delay” in setting up Service Victoria, pointing to the roll over of $52 million in unspent funds, amounting to 39% of the Service Victoria allocation for the current year.
The government announced two years ago it would create Service Victoria as the central point for digital government transactions, such as renewing a car registration, modelled on the popular Service NSW (pictured).
Despite the slower than anticipated progress, Special Minister of State Gavin Jennings objected to the idea it was delayed. He maintains it’s still going to be completed within the agreed timeline, and the pace of development is necessary to make sure everything is set up correctly from the start.
“We believe that we’re on track to deliver online a live experience within the timeframes of the project design. Did it mean that we actually allocated a significant allocation of funding a little bit slower than we might’ve, in terms of getting a project out the door, in terms of the procurement of systems integrated?” Jennings said. “The answer is yes, that was a little bit slower than we anticipated. Does that mean we’ll be delayed in the project delivery? The answer is no.”
So it’s not delayed, just happening slower than expected.
Leaving that debate aside, Department of Premier and Cabinet Secretary Chris Eccles told the committee progress can now move “very quickly” from planning into development testing and delivery after the systems integration contract was signed in April.
The government is focusing on the technology side of it for the moment, ensuring there’s an integrated system in place. Physical shop fronts modelled on the Service NSW setup, which provide a convenient single point for citizens to complete a wide range of transactions regardless of agency, are to come in the “second stage”, Jennings said.
Around two-thirds of Victorians would value having the option of transacting with government digitally, research done for Service Victoria indicates, though in Victoria currently fewer than 5% of transactions can be done completely online.
Experience setting up similar systems in New South Wales and at Commonwealth level show that one of the challenges for an agency set up to recreate how citizens transact with government is wresting control from the handful of other agencies who make up the bulk of existing transactions and might be unhappy about ceding responsibility — VicRoads would be one likely example, as the guardian of car registrations and driver’s licences.
Progress so far
Despite the slow progress — just don’t call it a delay — the government has not been sitting on its hands.
At present there are 55 staff working under the aegis of the Department of Premier and Cabinet preparing the ground for Service Victoria. They’ve built and tested an “enterprise-grade”, customer-facing website ready for integration into existing government legacy systems and are aiming for beta public release towards end of 2017.
A lot of research has been completed, which will hopefully mean Service Victoria’s systems are designed to work how citizens want to use them, rather than in a way that fits with how government operates.
The process of developing a customer website has involved analysing hundreds of different government transactions to identify common repeatable patterns and re-designed these into simple, consistent steps used to quickly roll-out future transactions. The Service Victoria team has worked with nearly 2000 people to understand their needs when dealing with government departments and agencies. Out of this, they have identified three core segments of customers and categorised them by the features and benefits they’re looking for when transacting online. Around 8-10 people a fortnight test the website and help improve it.
Analysis has been done on Victoria’s transactional service delivery channels, including transaction volume modelling, demand forecasting and detailed customer journey maps.
The project has successfully progressed through five independent program assurance reviews as part of the Department of Treasury and Finance’s high-value high-risk framework.