Our August article  Is Agile Taking Over? discussed the Australian Government Digital Transformation Office (DTO) and its new Digital Service Standard. Now a 14th  October article in The Mandarin,  DTO: gov.au to be new entry portal for government services, tells us just how agile the DTO has become. Author Tom Burton, publisher of The Mandarin, describes how the DTO’s first work program aims “to have working services up and running within the next 20 weeks.”

Tom is quoting from a talk by new DTO CEO Paul Shetler at a CEDA conference on Digital Government. We mentioned Paul in our July article Advance australia.gov.au: Our Own GDS brawl?, That article talked about the challenges Paul faced in trying to introduce the UK’s Government Digital Service (GDS) model in Australia, in light Australian Government funding cuts and the lack of progress on previous eGovernment initiatives  (we were quoting from another Tom Burton article in The Mandarin.)  The UK Government Digital Service has had a working rule of getting services to full public level within 20 weeks. In Canberra the aim is to have the first projects ready for beta release with 20 weeks.

Is that realistic? In his talk at the at the CEDA conference, Paul Shetler gives details of the approach, saying that their research confirmed that more than 50% of the 2.5 million users who access government services each month said they experienced a problem. The DTO’s agile approach aims at fast tracking projects, with early delivery of working systems. The first DTO project is a new portal for accessing government services, gov.au. A prototype is being built designed around common user needs and will be ready in nine weeks time. The DTO’s  four part development approach comprises: discovery, alpha release for review, beta release for further review and then ongoing development and iteration once the service has been  fully released.

Shetler said the design team will  focus on “transitions” — areas where users want to achieve an end result that might normally require visits to multiple websites and agencies, possibly across different tiers of government. “The prototype will be built around the users’ needs, rather than government’s structures,”

Apart from the gov.au portal, the DTO is also working on “a series of exemplar projects, each of which will be released as beta versions within 20 weeks.” These include working with:

The Department of Industry, Innovation and Science and the Australian Tax Office to build a new business registration system.

The Department of Immigration and Border Protection to improve processes for Australian businesses engaged in international trade.

The Department of Human Services to transform the way approximately 600,000 citizens register for Medicare each year, under the Digital Transformation Agenda.

The ACT government, to build a new system for non-urgent medical assistance.

See DTO: gov.au to be new entry portal for government services  for further details.

Another take on Whole of Government Agile comes in separate  14th  October article in The Mandarin,  What will it take for government to truly become agile? , by Dean Gingell, managing director of web analytics firm Lens10. Dean raises a note of caution, noting that “In my experience in the digital start-up arms of major enterprises such as Bigpond, Fairfax and Westfield, successful Agile product development is easier for small start-ups than large existing organisations. Moreover, the reasons for success or failure of Agile projects in larger organisations typically revolve around the problem chosen, the mandate provided and set-up of the Agile team itself.”

Dean outlines an agile manifesto for government, or a Lean start-up approach to government services and goes on to identify Agile success factors and to give some further tips for success in large organisations.

Overall, Dean is upbeat: “Agile with a capital A is a rigorous methodology suited to rapid and high-quality development, and for developing and delivering innovative approaches to government service delivery. It does come with a number of prerequisites for success but if they’re followed, it can be used to maximise the speed of delivery and the probability of success.”