June 21, 2021

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Meet the man flipping the government


Ditto for the tens of billions of payments, the numerous entitlement determinations agencies make and the millions of cases the federal public sector manages. Other common functions include business registration, relationship management, security, identity, compliance, web publishing and a host of other activities.

It is an audacious program that in its full bloom flips the traditional Westminister portfolio model of government, creating a unified government platform, where all agencies are brought into a common architecture, focused on citizen needs rather than traditional government functions.

Brugeaud has been given the brief to work out this whole-of-government architecture and then the really challenging part, coaxing Canberra’s notoriously independent departments and agencies into using these common functions.

Making it real

The early building blocks of this fundamental power realignment are under way and Brugeaud sees making this radical and grand vision come to reality as the core to his agency’s renewed mandate.

Quietly spoken, and modest to a tee, Brugeaud is not the person you would have picked as Australia’s most powerful chief information officer.

“In five years’ time, there is going to be a clear view as to how we solve common problems that we have broad adoption of those common ways of doing things,” Brugeaud tells The Australian Financial Review.

In outcome terms, this will mean “the government is getting good value for its money and is seeing fit-for-purpose solutions delivered and people are able to do business with government in a much more integrated way.

“And then we’ve got policy and assurance in place to be able to ensure that agencies understand the rules of racing, and they are more than just encouraged to align where it’s important, there is no choice but to align.”

“As a consequence, costs are likely to be less because we’ll do things in more efficient, less duplicative ways.

This creates a new insourcing model for government.

“I think there has been a realisation within government that it isn’t just the market that we can draw these things from,” Brugeaud says.

“We have expertise within government where we’ve done one of these things before. A good example is where if somebody needs to do payments that needs an agency to buy an off-the-shelf platform to do payments, we actually have one of those platforms.“

Digital transformation mark IV

The shift of the DTA to the centre of government marks the fourth phase of the federal government’s attempt at large-scale digital transformation.

According to Brugeaud, in its former reincarnation as the Digital Transformation Office, “it came in with a bang, it was disruptive, it was showing the way, and with lots of different thinking, lots of demonstrations of what’s possible.”

Much of the bang came from US import, Paul Shetler, now deceased. The sneaker-wearing Shetler was far too blunt about the need for major culture change in the very traditional work of Canberra ICT and resigned after he found him self-demoted as CEO.

Says Brugeaud: “There needed to be a transition point where that became real and that was less like a series of experiments.″⁣

Brugeaud says that after the agency was rebranded, it started to take on the customer orientation in specific business domains.

Gavin Slater from NAB took over and was able “to apply a series of disconnected experiments into a set of things that shaped the future of My Gov as we’re seeing it today”.

Slater moved on and Brugeaud, a former Boston Consulting Group executive, was tapped. Brugeaud had worked as CIO in a series of small and larger agencies and had impressed agency leaders with his ability to build relationships and to focus on the things necessary.

He says: “Like in any kind of organisation or set of organisations, to have an impact, you need to build coalitions and ensure understanding and get buy-in to the given programs at work.”

The new digital order

Unlike his former transformation colleagues, Brugeaud is not having to do this on his own. There is a now cabinet-level committee co-ordinating services, led by a minister with real technology experience, Stuart Robert.

The high-energy Robert has insisted on a 90-day delivery cycle, which Brugeaud says has been critical to the DTA’s impact.

“He has been able to see from one quarter to another, delivery,” the CIO says.

“Which drives support. This is something that becomes quite addictive.

Indeed, according to DTA chief of strategy Peter Alexander, one of the unsung achievements of the DTA has been the shift away from traditional waterfall methodologies such as the P3M3 project management system.

“I can’t think of a major program in government today, that doesn’t deliver in agile, either agile or scaled agile,” former Treasury CIO Alexander says.

Alexander says this locks in a strong user orientation, something traditional models, like P3M3 did not do.

The push to have agencies embrace common ways of working is not simply about technology.

Brugeaud says: “In order for us to actually consume common platforms and services, it often requires you to adjust the way the business operates, where, rather than saying ‘here is how I do my payroll’, you actually do your payroll the way the rest of the cluster does it.

“As we identify reuse opportunities, people are going to need to relinquish some control and adjust their business process.”

Removing the IT noise

Within the $7 billion annual technology spend, there are thousands of projects, not all of them mission critical.

Brugeaud says: “Really strong prioritisation is fundamental to what we’re doing. There are a million things we could potentially work on. We are continually refining our priorities to make sure that we’re allocating resources to the most important things, because otherwise you just get overwhelmed with noise.”

Brugeaud acknowledges that funding models in which individual agencies typically budgeted to build their own systems will necessarily have to change.

“As we look at more co-ordinated ways of doing things, we need to think about ways of funding and we need to think about how we can align priorities and time frames, to ensure that the thing that’s common doesn’t hold up the delivery of the thing that is dependent upon that,” he says.

Alignment can’t just be a nice management concept, Brugeaud says: “We need to not just have alignment; we need to have action associated with that alignment.”

Citing the emerging digital identity framework as an example, Brugeaud says “we have identity providers who are being accredited. We need to have relying services, which is the most important part so people can do something useful with their digital identity.

“Lots of people have predominantly with the ATO but as we start to deliver the features that people value, we’re going to get more and more people jumping on board.“

Building a public digital ecosystem

This will necessarily extend well beyond the nation’s capital.

“There is no point in having a Service NSW interaction and an ACT government interaction or Service Vic interaction, if they’re all disconnected,” Brugeaud said.

”As we start to think about these more integrated services that require a common understanding of the different levels of proofing and authentication and the data-sharing that underpins them, we can provide an integrated view. That will be where we’re driving much more strongly.”

Digital is about partnerships and ecosystems and Brugeaud sees the role beyond just getting the technology stack for the federal government fit for the digital era.

He says: “We have reached out to the states and territories because what we’re absolutely attuned to is the importance of being able to build a national capability in areas such as identity, to actually really improve the economy and the experience that people and businesses are having dealing with government. We need to have a common language.”

This also includes learning from the business sector.

“When you think about the market, a lot of the market is built on customer service in retail and insurance and banking, and so we can make the best of what they’ve done and bring that back into government services,” Brugeaud says.

When it comes to enterprise IT, the federal government trumps all and Brugeaud appreciates the role government can play in setting standards across the broader digital ecosystem.

“This is most definitely the government’s mindset when it comes to cyber. With a lot of the work we’ve been doing in relation to building mature cyber capabilities, with all of the security and privacy needs that we have, we are now seeing the private sector adopt those things, be they through government agreements or the infrastructure that is being put in place to align with those requirements.

“What we’re able to do is actually drive that standardisation at a national level.”

Trust licence

Privacy and security are central to the whole approach and Brugeaud is aware that citizen trust is critical.

He says: “So much of what we’re doing needs to take the community on a journey with us to ensure that we are maintaining their trust.

“We invest a lot of time in thinking about how we can ensure that privacy and security and then also trust in the community. Because the moment we lose that, there’s no point having the capability.



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