The push to citizen-centric government

John Garratt is federal government director at Micro Focus.  Recently he met with IDM to discuss how Micro Focus is helping Australian government organisations pursue digital transformation strategies.

IDM: What are some of the main issues and challenges facing government agencies today.

JG: When I speak to federal government agencies here in Canberra they talk about transforming their business. They’ve got the same drivers and the same needs as everyone else has.

They've got core applications that have been supporting federal government for many years. Content Manager has been their records management archiving tool and supporting their business for many, many years.

We now have Content Manager running as a service and it's becoming very successful.

However, changing the culture of government is challenging and there are many legislative constraints that mean you can't do that rapidly.

So, whilst there's an aspiration to drive new business models using digital transformation, it's either not going to happen or doesn't happen at the pace we see elsewhere outside of government.

IDM: Legacy applications always tick the box first in terms of challenges in terms of adaptation, because governments want to be able to digitise and automate processes that are currently manual and that really is the key.

JG: I don’t really like to use the term, because applications that are often termed as legacy, they’re actually heritage applications that are the lifeblood of government. They could be sitting on various platforms and now there is a drive to move those applications and make the data that they hold more useful.

The main challenge is how do you make applications that are more citizen centric? And, how do you share data across agencies, which is becoming more and more critical?

Also, how do you build applications that citizens want to use?

They don't want to have to go home and sit on their laptop or their computer. They want to perform tasks on their mobile device or on a tablet in a coffee shop.

So, making those applications that are heritage and the information they have available in that domain is fundamentally going to require some massive changes. What I'm seeing is that agencies are looking at taking the API approach.

They're taking an approach where they'll build smaller applications that will leverage data and information from their heritage application so it can be made available.

But they've still got to protect that information and make sure they're presenting that information to the right people.

It really applies to any platform, if you can access the data store, you can write an API to pull that data over. That approach is being taken by many federal agencies still using mainframe applications that are looking to leverage that data and have it available in applications running on a Windows platform.

Once we’ve got it on the Windows platform it opens up a world of opportunities for them.

Micro Focus has done that for thousands of organisations around the world. Taken mainframe applications and rather than do a complete rewrite of the COBOL applications, place it inside a Windows platform.

Just because you have a heritage application holding the central data it is not an obstacle to enabling collaboration and access to that data so long as you've got some sort of authentication in place.

I don't think there's an app you can go to nowadays that doesn't have multi-factor authentication.

IDM: A report from Deloitte in 2015 found that Australians undertake more than 800 million transactions with government agencies each year, with about 40% still completed using traditional non digital channels. It talked about the opportunity for billions of savings if that number could be reduced to 20% over a 10 year period. Do you think we are on track?

JG: I honestly don't think it's changed that much. But I think the aspirations to do that is still there.

The need is still there and now we are in a position where the technology supports that.

There was a whole of government cloud push a few years ago and it's only now that I can see government is really embracing cloud. It's been a slow process, but now the snowball has started and it's happening.

It may even be a generational thing. The younger generation in the federal government workforce get it. They understand this is what needs to be done, so I suspect that could be having an influence.

IDM: Many government agencies are looking at manage-in-place strategies rather than the traditional EDRMS approach, how does this impact data security?

JG: We have a broad portfolio of technology that sits in the cybersecurity space. We run a division that's dedicated purely to this area called CyberRes (short for Cyber Resilience Services). 

If you have that data in a single repository, you've still got to share that data, so protecting that data whilst it's in transit is another key component that must be considered.

There are Micro Focus solutions that will get you through that hurdle and solve that problem for you.

We're doing that for agencies so that they can protect their data both for testing purposes and for data to run analytics, for example, so they can get the insights out of the data that they need.

IDM: What would you put at the top of the list that's stopping that being more universal in terms of making those digital capabilities active on government agencies?

JG: I would say cultural is one of the biggest. Digital transformation is comprised of three things - technology, people and processes - to come up with new ways of doing bigger and better things in a smarter way.

Out of those 3 components, culture is the hardest one to change.

Everyone works under pressure. Everyone is on a tight timeline and to change and learn new processes, it’s not so much that they don't want to do it. It's a case of they don't have time to do it.

IDM: What is the focus for Micro Focus in the federal government space in the next 12 months?

JG: Our focus for the next twelve months will be to support the federal government solve the digital dilemma they face.  All federal departments will need to continue to run their existing services while delivering and transforming to deliver new, innovative digital government services that will be required tomorrow. A digital government needs to provide online citizen services, any time on any device, that are secure, reliable, and offer a personalised citizen experience yet protect the privacy of personal data. Micro Focus will continue to support the Australian government with its broad set of enterprise software technology solutions and professional services for cybersecurity, IT operations, application delivery, governance, modernisation, and predictive analytics, needed to provide the innovation required by government agencies to run and transform at the same time.