APSC training Australia's public service to be more 'agile'

The Australian Public Service Commission is undertaking a program of work to lure technology professionals, train more technology professionals, and then send them through a cultural transformation in hope of retaining the talent it has skilled up.
Written by Asha Barbaschow, Contributor

The Australian Public Service Commission (APSC) wants to create a more agile and technology-focused public service workforce, and is embarking on a program of work with the Digital Transformation Agency (DTA) to do just that.

There are three main projects within the program of work, with the first looking specifically to attract digital professionals into the public service.

"Whether you're digital or not, you join the public service because you want to do good for Australia. We have really challenging problems to solve and digital professionals love to put their enormous brains onto the hard problems," Director of Capability at APSC Karen Dahlstrom told the Overcoming the Challenges of Digital Transformation conference in Canberra this week.

"We also have really cool datasets that nobody else has in Australia. Imagine working with the datasets of every Australian citizen -- Google doesn't have that."

The second project is aiming to develop digital skills within the public service, with a looming technology skills shortage making it hard for the government to take the lion's share.

"We're using our learning design standards ... to document 12, up to 18, specialist digital skills and we're putting them on the Digital Marketplace so agencies can use the Learning Design Standards to procure learning and development solutions to develop those skills for the workforce," Dahlstrom explained.

Digital Marketplace is a federal government initiative aimed at getting SMEs involved in the government's IT spend. It is touted by the government as an ecosystem where government buyers and sellers can "connect" with smaller suppliers.

The third project, Dahlstrom explained, is addressing the cultural change that needs to happen for the Australian Public Service to drive its digital transformation -- a digital leadership program targeted at senior executives.

"Not just the CEOs and CIOs, but every [senior executive] will have the opportunity to come on our program and learn what it means to be agile and learn what the leadership skills are to take this Australian government to the next level that they need to be," she said.

"But most importantly to create the culture so that once we've got the digital professionals in, and the digital skills developed, they want to stay and not run away and say, 'oh, this is all too hard', because that's what's happening at the moment."

Cultural change, to Dahlstrom, is about understanding the mindset that senior executives must have to adopt a digital way of working.

The APSC turned to the market in January for help with designing and delivering the "intensive" digital transformation development program for its senior executives.

The APSC is funded to deliver the program of work only for federal departments, but Dahlstrom said the knowledge and learning is shared with state and territory counterparts.

"It's not just one layer of government that needs this," she added.

The Australian government is implementing a digital transformation agenda to transform the way it delivers services to citizens, business, and other users. The DTA -- formerly the Digital Transformation Office -- was created to help lead that transformation.

Although kicking off a handful of digital transformation projects earlier in the year, the government outlined its series of initiatives in its Budget 2017-18, intending to modernise and consolidate its systems, as well as train staff members in digital skills.

"A number of Commonwealth agencies are taking advantage of technology and other innovations to provide more productive and efficient ways of working such as establishing flexible working environments, including converting offices to open plan and activity-based working facilities, to enable co-location and improving remote access technology to allow staff to work from anywhere," the government said in its Budget 2017-18 documents.


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