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Australia's Great Digital Reset - Episode 2

Creating a Foundation for Better Citizen and Society Service Outcomes

Jane Headon Ed Bridgeland
Jane Headon Ed Bridgeland

In the first article in this series, we explored the opportunity for governments to seize the moment and reset services underpinned by a focus on design, digital and data. In this second article, we investigate how governments can create the foundation for this new thinking.

Australia’s great digital reset requires a shift in the fundamental concept of government, re-aligning services to focus on specific communities or individual needs as the preliminary step.

Government departments have been aligned along their key policy areas for a long time; this traditional, policy-based structure endures within most countries. There are several good reasons for this: It helps align policy with service delivery with a clear line of sight of accountability and enables organisations to build deep understanding within their specialist areas. 

However, these models aren’t as effective at meeting the needs of communities or individuals. There are many instances where people can be passed between one organisation and another, or simply ‘fall between the cracks’ of entrenched organisational boundaries. This can happen at a delivery level where citizens need to contact multiple agencies to solve an issue or inform government of a change in circumstances. It can also happen at a system level where a lack of investment by one agency in a citizen cohort can inadvertently drive increased service demands in other agencies over time.

Tackling these challenges is more than just a better citizen service experience. It is better for the individual to get the service they need when they want it, but it is also better for society – helping to ensure a more efficient distribution of government resources in the long-run and creating safer, fairer and healthier outcomes.

Standard model for exploring society centred design

To achieve better citizen and societal outcomes, it is helpful to consider a simple service value chain consisting of functions that broadly relate to service commissioning (including strategy, investment and system design) and those that relate to delivery (including implementation, access and service delivery), summarised as:

Standard_model_for_exploring_society_centred_design

Using this value chain as a basis, it is possible to identify three broad scenarios that shift the perspective to society-centred design:

Option 1: Separate commissioning and integrated service delivery

In this model, functions are combined at a service delivery level, either in single entity or through a digital connection, focused on communities, individuals or issues. This function is commissioned or directed by the different relevant agencies involved. The service delivery entity provides a common shop-front (physical or virtual) for the delivery of many different types of services. It provides the opportunity for individuals with needs across several areas (e.g. social housing, motor vehicle registration, business licenses) to access services in one place with a common experience, while enabling the responsible agencies to maintain their primary policy focus.

This model enables a common client experience at the front-end that can significantly improve access and quality of service. It makes it easier to refer between one service and another across potentially disparate areas. The integrated service delivery model also provides the greatest opportunity to collect and interpret the effect of service in a particular locality, which provides feedback to commissioning entities to inform and improve the scoping of services. It is the easiest way to achieve a greater citizen focus, as digital alignment means significant changes to experience can be achieved without major organisational restructures.

The limitation of this model is the innovation focuses largely on the delivery mechanisms rather than the services themselves and their underlying rationale. Although the front-end of service delivery provides a common client experience, the different commissioning entities may have competing interests and differing mandates, with limited incentives to collaborate to innovate the service offer.

Option 2: Integrated commissioning and disaggregated service delivery

In this model, a common commissioner is established to focus on a community, individual or issue. That role commissions other policy-aligned agencies to deliver services they have developed among the rest of their service portfolio. For example, the commissioner may be responsible for vulnerable children and families, and it would develop and commission services from agencies such as education, health, justice and social services to drive better outcomes for that cohort. .

This model can bring new insights across different services as the commissioning agency can access and combine data from across different agencies to provide a more holistic view of the issue, community or individual need and a more informed view of the impact of a particular service. When it works, this model can be effective in innovating the services that the government delivers to its citizens without being too disruptive to existing structures.

The key challenge with this model is around the extent that the commissioning entity can influence and encourage delivery agencies to re-prioritise or collaborate on delivery of services to meet identified community or individual needs. Without a strong authorising environment, it will be difficult for a commissioner to hold others to account for delivering on agreed objectives and driving changes at a local level.

Option 3: End-to-end integration

The most comprehensive approach to achieving a cross-service focus is to establish a new department or agency that focuses on the particular community, client or issue. The same entity is responsible across the commissioning and service delivery aspects of the value chain.

End to end integration

This model sets a very clear authorising regime, which enables targeted data collation and analytics, and provides strong incentives for collaboration. Complete integration means there is a strong and clear mandate to focus on the citizen perspective, the entity can allocate funds more easily to areas of client need and demonstrate the benefits of those investments. 

The main risk with this approach is around the alignment of the entity with related policies or services which aren’t relevant to the community, client or issue within its purview. The traditional government model has endured for this reason and entities that follow this approach need to stay very closely aligned with those other functions to ensure their targeted services are appropriately optimised and scaled.

Each of these high-level model options has merit. The right model will always depend on context, i.e. the current situation and the ambition or ability to change. One thing is clear, government expectations and citizen needs are changing rapidly and the shift to new models needs to accelerate to meet these demands and drive the great reset.

Any fundamental model shift like this will require new capabilities and ways of working. In our next article we will explore the things governments need to do to practically make this happen.

Jane Headon
Jane Headon
Director, Strategy & Consulting
Ed Bridgeland
Ed Bridgeland
Client Partner