Developers need to be developing: Service NSW claims shift in tech stack can help

The one-stop shop for citizen service delivery believes the move to a "low-touch or no-touch" environment will free up time for its developers.

Service NSW said it wants to create a "low-touch or no-touch" environment for provisioning, scaling, and deploying products so developers can spend their time developing.

According to Service NSW chief digital and product officer Chris Fechner, developers currently spend too much time preparing for development and not enough time developing.

"We undertook 36 initiatives last year. One of the things we discovered during the delivery of those 36 initiatives…our time for actual development was less than half of our total time to deploy," he said.

"This meant we had a whole lot of build functions around environment, test data, preparedness for moving into production, readiness for go-live, training activities…and we really need to look at changing that."

Fechner said the agency's ability to make these changes however, remain constrained by existing legacy technology that was introduced when Service NSW was established six years ago.

See also: Service NSW to develop multi-factor authentication identity platform as opt-in  

"We've got some tech debt in our environments. We've got old plumbing effectively that is trying to work with new plumbing. We have to give a lot more care and attention on the old plumbing, so it works with the new products," he told ZDNet.  

"Our big initiative is to modernise our existing environment, so it really becomes a zero-infrastructure environment.

"It's about moving to the cloud, containerisation, and microservices architecture so we end up orchestrating things more, and developers can pick and include things in there, instead of doing what we normally do in our test environment and repopulate it with data; it becomes quite a long chain.

"It's limiting our ability to do continuous release. We needed to move away from a legacy stack, which was of our own building and only six years in, into an environment that's completely flexible for us."

Beyond improving how quickly new products are deployed, switching what previously was a full standard technology stack to adopting microservices, introducing bug bounty, and using telemetry has meant greater stability, repeatability, and resiliency for Service NSW, said Fechner, who spoke at New Relic Future Stack 2019 on Wednesday.

See also: Service NSW ditches Microsoft for Google (TechRepublic)  

"We have a lot of failures in our environment; applications would fall down. Quite often it wasn't in the application space, it was in the infrastructure space, but it always took a big search all the way down to find the root cause of these things," he said.

"In Service NSW, if somebody comes into a service centre, undertakes a transaction, and has a digital component to it -- and they're from western NSW and they've travelled two and a half hours to get there and they turn up on the day -- only to find out the service is unavailable, it's a really disappointing thing … so it's really important that we ensure we have the greatest stability survivable on impacts."

The ongoing work carried out by Service NSW comes off the back of the state government handing its one-stop shop for citizen service delivery agency an additional AU$50 million as part of the state's 2019-20 Budget in June.

Around the same time, Service NSW's director of product management for its Easy to do Business program Georgos Papanastasiou touted the organisation's success has so far came down to its people.

"We really believe that happy people, happy staff, provide a great customer service -- they're more responsive to change and are better equipped to embrace new technologies, systems, and processes if they're happy," he said at the time.

"We place the customer at the heart of what we do and offer them a single point of contact for all of government."

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