The man in charge of reforming Queensland’s public sector has complained that the state government appears to be pushing forward with customer service improvements in spite of its IT, rather than alongside it.
Speaking at a recent Partners in Technology briefing, the Department of Premier and Cabinet's deputy director general Ross Musgrove told attendees he thought the state had been “spectacularly unsuccessful” in pushing through IT reforms in recent years.
“We have got through some great reforms [in other areas]. The health system functions. Trains run on time. Crime is down," he said.
“A lot of big things are happening almost in spite of major IT reforms not having taken place.”
He urged the government to pick up its pace in implementing the technology-related recommendations contained with the state's 2012 commission of audit - a job he said the government was only 25 percent of the way through two years on.
“The next few years will be absolutely dependant on people in this room and the people in [the Department of Science, IT, innovation and the Arts]. If we're going to take the next quantum leap in terms of customer service, then we're going to need everyone's help,” he told the Brisbane crowd.
The state’s central IT functions, located inside DSITIA, have been forced to deal with their fair share of internal turmoil and personnel changes since the Newman government took power and promised to overhaul the way the government uses technology.
Late in the LNP’s first term, however, Musgrove said he is still “butting up against brick walls” because the IT foundations are simply not there to support what the commission of audit implementation team wants to achieve.
“We've had some successes in IT but I'm not going to pretend they’re even nearly enough.”
Musgrove repeated his push for the Queensland IT community to think laterally about customer needs before locking themselves into a costly legacy IT replacement cycle.
“Before just assuming that we have got to replace a legacy system - which is usually broken or about to fall over - we need to ask a fundamental question: what does the customer need?" he said.
“We are not fundamentally questioning whether that system is what the customer wants and whether it is delivering what they will need into the future."
He pointed to a handful of successful tech initiatives – like the Queensland Police’s use of iPads and the ‘Little IT’ app development program – but added that the government hadn't '"achieved what we should have achieved”.
A self-confessed recent convert to the enabling potential of IT, Musgrove said he now believes technology will be critical to the public sector surviving a “pincer movement” of a fast retiring public workforce and an ageing and increasingly government-dependent electorate.
“Do we find more innovative ways of delivering services that don't require as many staff? Digital technology has the potential to drive a new wave of service delivery improvement – and we have not even begun to harness this."