As the digital transformation of Australian government services progresses, there is increased need to develop different organisation models to support the new operating models.

This is the second in our series of three articles which explore some of the organisation design challenges and principles for the new government services.

The design principles for government agencies providing digital services present a number of challenges and paradoxes:

  • The need to design for collaboration – digital service design requires a great deal of collaboration – across functions, with citizens or users, with other government departments.
  • The need for speed and the ability to work in sprints means teams need to be more fluid, to come together rapidly, draw on external expertise and resources as required, deliver in short time periods.
  • The ability to embrace new technologies and deploy capability across multiple projects or services as capabilities, such as machine learning, become more available and relevant for government services.
  • The imperative for appropriate governance coupled with the availability and widespread dissemination of government services information.
  • The need to accommodate flexible workforce practices including the use of a contingent workforce.

These challenges drive the need for adaptive and collaborative organisation structures. The new organisations will need to be ambidextrous – ensuring good governance, generating information to enable evidence based decision-making, whilst also delivering with speed and customer focus.

With government services delivered As a Service, the concept of matrix accountability is unavoidable as functions and services inevitably span multiple organisational structures. Government services and their supporting processes can be understood as horizontal management structures, established and managed on top of the traditional vertical silos. As these service and processes are re-defined, the need to establish governance and ownership roles that don’t seem to fit well in the traditional vertical silos, becomes increasingly apparent.

New organisation design principles are required:

  • A Matrix Model design accommodates both functional specialisation and end-to-end service lifecycle management. It also manages and maintains core functions; it allows resource flexibility and optimises spans of control to maximize ‘one team’ behaviour.
  • Centres of Excellence will rapidly build new capabilities which can be deployed across both functional and new service teams. This enables flexibility and focus to create, develop, embed and transition to business as usual.
  • Roles which are defined by levels of work, job family (e.g. business management, centre of excellence, technology, service management etc.) and service or project.
  • Integration through new business management functions which include governance, planning, procurement, contract management, workforce management, and financial management
  • Broader and deeper competencies encourage multiple career paths. This increases versatilists[1], deeper technology and innovation skills, customer and business management, financial management and adaptive leadership skills. Leaders will work with longer timeframes, span boundaries, work less linearly and use more systems based thinking. They will manage paradoxes and develop comfort with emergent design thinking.



[1]First coined by Gartner:”Versatilists are able to apply a depth of skill to a progressively widening scope of situations and experiences, equally at ease with technical issues as with business strategy.”