Insights from the frontline: Digital Transformation across NSW Government

Different parts of our state government are dealing with common issues around data migration, records management and culture change. But their transformation journeys are not all progressing at the same pace or guided by the same goals and priorities. In a round table facilitated by Eighty20 and our partners Avepoint, senior IT leaders from a number of government agencies came together to discuss the challenges and opportunities ahead of them as sharing some best-practice insights.

This summary report provides select highlights from the event. While the themes are likely to be familiar to IT leaders in other sectors, there may be some new perspectives to learn from.

Balancing control and collaboration

The shift away from VPNs, on premises and file server storage and towards the cloud and Teams and Sharepoint online environments is being met with both concern and excitement. The change this brings in records management, access and workflows is making employees anxious about losing or compromising documents and data. Others, particularly at the senior level, are struggling with the volume of Teams notifications and alerts they’re receiving as the collaborative potential of cloud-based applications is realised. At the same time, other business units are embracing the opportunity for a more dynamic way of working and fewer barriers to collaboration. They’re the contingent jumping at the chance to create their own PowerApps while at the other end of the spectrum some employees are refusing to engage altogether.

There are also different degrees of freedom business units have been given to establish and manage their new virtual workspaces and filing cabinets. Some organisations have let their workforce explore in the MS365 playground, giving them permission to create Teams for projects on an ad hoc basis. While this is boosting collaboration, there’s a sense of a sprawl developing that needs a greater level of control. On the other hand, there are government entities where all Teams and Sharepoint sites are created centrally, with owners trained to administer, monitor and develop these information and collaboration hubs. IT leaders taking a more controlled, centralised approach are learning that training needs to be ongoing, as not everything can be retained from the outset and skills need to be refreshed as the technology changes.

Calming security concerns

NSW Government had certainly taken steps towards cloud adoption well before the COVID pandemic hit in March 2020. But as this transition accelerates, some organisations and their leaders are yet to be convinced that the cloud can offer equivalent security to the firewalls and VPNs they’re used to. In the experience of IT leaders working in government this concern comes from a fear of the unknown and a perceived lack of control. They’re aware that the responsibility for building confidence in the cloud across the whole organisation lies with them as part of a holistic change management effort touching on workplace practices as well as attitudes.

Data migration and consolidation at scale

As the pandemic and cyberthreats have intensified vigilance around the security and integrity of data, migration to the cloud is presenting as an important opportunity to consolidate all records into a single secure source of truth. This is leading government organisations to develop strategies for weeding out redundant and duplicate data before tackling migration, as well as understanding whether physical and digital records of assets need to be retained.
This is an arduous task to say the least. Several decades’ worth of assets adding up to petabytes of data will take months to relocate, index and organise. The experience of IT leaders to date points to an approach focussed on easy wins to achieve buy-in and keep momentum going.

Resolving a resource challenge

When it comes to resourcing this growing portfolio, there are many facets of support required from the IT function. There is the culture change piece, where IT teams must champion engagement with tools some don’t quite trust while making sure that enthusiastic adopters colour within the lines. At the same time, service desk support is still needed for technical troubleshooting.
CTOs and CIOs must ask themselves how they can be the gatekeeper without curbing the initiative of employees eager to make the most of new functionality. Building an IT capability to strike this balance between freedom and frameworks is no easy task, particularly with the level of competition for digital talent in the current job market.

The essential ingredients: effective change management and governance

This group of senior IT representatives from government are experts in leading some of the largest scale digital transformation efforts in the whole country. While their experiences are broadly different, what they can all agree on is that a strong focus on both change management and data governance sit at the heart of the many challenges and opportunities they’re dealing with.
In the longer term, getting employees comfortable with the security of records management can be overcome when the user driven aspects of data architecture are minimised. Employees won’t need to be responsible for adhering to a workflow to ensure documents and data are stored correctly. With the right data governance and architecture in place, this can be taken care of for them. It’s large-scale programs like this that can introduce a more mature view on digital transformation. When cloud and software adoption is considered by everyone, this lays the foundation for a culture that universally embraces the progress technology makes possible.

If you are interested in joining our next roundtable or if you are on the transformation journey and need support, please get in touch.