Turnbull's Digital Transformation Office has NO PLAN, but awesome power

There's a mission statement-y kind of thing and an FAQ but that's it for now

Malcolm Turnbull's new Digital Transformation Office (DTO), launched last week with a goal of reinventing government service delivery but lacking any new money with which to make the attempt, also has no plan for its efforts.

It does, however, have an FAQ on Turnbull's own site, explaining that the new agency will “will be responsible for digital service delivery across government” and “will act as a digital champion across government and help agencies with limited digital expertise realise the benefits of digital government.”

The FAQ also says the DTO will “coordinate and lead the government’s digital transformation agenda, so there should not be examples of agencies operating outside this framework” but won't “ simply tell agencies what to do” and will instead “work collaboratively with agencies and to provide them with deep expertise as agencies transition to digital to improve the user experience.”

The head of the DTO will, however, “... be responsible for resolving all significant disputes between agencies relating to digital, including investment decisions in common platforms.”

There's also an ambition to “implement government services that are reusable and interconnected, with platforms that can be leveraged across agencies and shared by everyone.” Just like the UK's Government Digital Service (GDS).

Speaking of the GDS, Turnbull also says “In-line with the work of the UK’s GDS, the DTO will develop services and present information using a common ‘look and feel’ through australia.gov.”

We've asked the Department of Communications, within which the DTO lies, if the recently-redesigned Australia.gov.au is the template for that common look and feel, or will again be redesigned. “As the DTO is still being established, the Department has no further information to provide at this stage,” we were told.

We also asked whether a “plan, charter, or some other document outlining the DTO's goals and activities been created”.

Here's the Department's response:

The DTO has been established to assist agencies adopt a coordinated, whole-of-government approach to service delivery that focuses on the needs and expectations of users. It will ensure that there is an appropriate level of consistency in the ‘look and feel’ of services across government and that services are delivered seamlessly from start to finish. The DTO will also act as a digital champion across government and help agencies with limited digital expertise realise the benefits of digital government.

We were also told that “The DTO is still being established. Corporate documents setting out greater details on the DTO and its activities will be made available when its leadership team is in place.”

As we know from our story on the agency's establishment, a search for the leadership team's members is under way. The Reg has seen tweets from at least one current Department of Finance staffer willing to say she's joined the DTO.

So let's summarise what we know about the DTO: it has goals that few could oppose, but the UK agency on which it is based has a spotty record. Unlike the GDS (which plans (PDF) to chew through £58m this financial year, the DTO has no money.

At present it doesn't have a plan other than Turnbull's FAQ and won't get one for a while.

It also appears to have no stick to wield.

Does that add up to any way to run a digital transformation effort?

Turnbull's a sharp operator. He'll hire someone smart and driven to lead the DTO. Hopefully that person, and their team, can put some flesh on the well-structured skeleton we've seen so far. Before it starts to rattle ominously. ®

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