Queensland Audit Office

Use of digital technologies has increased the pace of disruption in every industry. The question now is whether the Queensland Government is keeping pace with this reality.

Digital technologies are in every part of our lives—home, education, travel, recreation, healthcare, and sustainable living. Digital government has the potential to deliver improved and new public services. These services often need to be integrated with existing legacy systems (systems that vendors no longer support) that are necessary for the core business.

Legacy systems are a part of some information technology ecosystems

Senior leaders need to regularly review and independently challenge risks relating to legacy systems. Some government entities have highly customised legacy systems that are for specific functions and are critical to the core business. Legislation often drives the customisation of these systems.

Figuring out solutions to replace legacy systems requires complex analysis of business requirements, short- and long-term information needs, and dependencies. It also involves envisioning an ideal future state. Often, the market does not have a system that has all the same functions as the legacy systems. However, business operations need to evolve to be able to harness the benefits of technologies, such as, automation and artificial intelligence. In some cases, senior leaders adopt a strategy to implement a solution that includes several digital services alongside the legacy system.

Senior management needs to keep an eye on risks when transforming existing services to use new and emerging technologies. They need to consider risks around cyber security, information security and compliance with legislation. For example, some government systems have large volumes of identity data of Queenslanders. Senior leaders must review these risks and test their mitigation strategies each time they implement a new digital service.

Implementing digital services

But implementing digital technologies is not enough. Workforces must understand their business environments and processes so that they are using their software to its full potential. All employees need to adopt a culture of continuously optimising business processes and benchmarking these with other jurisdictions and industry. This may mean that senior leaders implement new digital services to improve current processes and integrate with the existing information technology ecosystems. For this to be effective, the workforce needs to continually re-skill and upskill in using new and emerging technologies and have capacity to implement improvements. These skills are critical to help evolve government services.

In this fast-changing environment, senior leaders can explore opportunities to evolve digital services in small chunks, to progressively realise benefits of the new products. In contrast, the big bang approach, where entities implement new software in one go, has often proven to be costly and benefits eroded in the lengthy time to delivery. At times, governments have had to cancel projects after spending significant money because those projects would no longer deliver the benefits originally expected.

Further information

For more information, please see our reports:

Delivering successful technology projects (Report 7: 2020–21)

Queensland Health’s new finance and supply chain management system (Report 4: 2020–21)

Effectiveness of the State Penalties Enforcement Registry ICT reform (Report 10: 2019–20)

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