Services Australia is setting in motion eight transformation programs with the intent to reuse as much tech as possible. The lingering problem seems to be legacy IT infrastructure which has made it difficult for staff to work efficiently. These projects are based on streamlining welfare payment, modernising health care, ensuring funds for residential aged care, transforming the relationship of veterans with the government, upgrading call centre services, and remodelling the GovERP program that will directly impact how citizens engage with public service organisations. Charles McHardie, CEO of the agency’s transformation projects is hopeful that the programs will bring consistency, ease of use, and cost savings.
Services Australia is working very closely with the federal government to make sure that all reform and upgrades are centred around a digital capability perspective to benefit as many public service organisations as possible. That said, the staff is strongly participative in this digital capability development process. It is, after all, they who have to face the brunt of public ire when systems are slow and siloed. These projects aim to modernise all legacy architecture with the intent to streamline citizen interactions, claims processing and query resolutions at the earliest.
The key to this transformation will be the single SAP-based staff interface. This will be a huge improvement over the three separate systems that the staff works on when they're processing Centrelink claims. This interface will also put in place a secure mechanism of information delivery to all the customers and employees via email. The same instance of information will be found and accessible on all parts of the system, thus reducing any erroneous transactions due to old/ incorrect information.
Another concern with overhauling systems is the limited expertise and availability of informed IT staff.
A new project was put on hold because there was no staff with appropriate knowledge of the new system. New systems imply the need to hire people with those skill sets or aggressively develop current skill sets.
Alistair Waters, CPSU national president, also voiced concerns over the employment status of the staff, of the 1600 Services Australia staff, 50% are contractual. In the aftermath of the pandemic, IT skills continues to be one of the most affected areas in ANZ, given that the borders still remain shut. The Hays Salary Guide Australia 2021 mentions poor salary increments as another limiting factor, with almost 76% of technology professionals looking for a better job or planning to look in the next 12 months. As it stands, IT jobs today account for almost 10% of those in the highest demand category.
However, McHardie is optimistic and believes that the company has the largest in-house IT capability within the federal government. He's working at revamping the staff to get to a 70/30 mix of APS and contracted staff. Talent acquisition and retention will still be a challenge but McHardie is confident of Services Australia’s offerings of cadetships, traineeships, apprenticeships, and its grad program.