Agents of change, the hope for infrastructure shakeup within government agencies


5 November 2019



This opinion piece was authored by Greg Round, the General Manager of MNF Enterprise, and published on Government News on 4 November, 2019.


‘Reform’ is the current buzz word within the corridors of Australia’s federal government departments. Those that have advocated change and a move away from the status quo, in the provision of such services as telecommunications, hope the impending shake-up will go some way towards addressing the long-term issues around market structure, competitiveness and progression to next generation voice and collaboration services within our country.


While the public service sit nervously on their seats awaiting what will follow from the findings of the independent review of the Australian Public Service (APS), led by former Telstra CEO David Thodey, which is intended to produce “an ambitious program to guide and accelerate reforms to ensure the APS is ready to harness the changes that are transforming the Australian economy and society”, government heads including Prime Minister Scott Morrison have already weighed in on the debate.


The examination around how Australia’s 150,000 strong public services will evolve and become ‘future-fit’ is controversial. Mr Morrison has already gone on record – before the release of the report – saying he wanted a “step change” in service delivery with a more public-facing APS, a sharper focus on KPIs and the harnessing of external expertise by bureaucrats.


He emphasised in an address to the Institute of Public Administration in Canberra in August that bureaucrats need to be “more open to outsiders,” harnessing the knowledge of “external partners” and joining up different departments.


I’m hoping that the APS review in conjunction with a Request for Information by the Digital Transformation Agency for a whole of government Telecommunications Marketplace will result in a real opportunity for SME players to get a foothold into these big budget contracts.


I know that some of my peers in similar sized businesses have a healthy degree of scepticism. Procurement panels have long been used by government departments as a way of streamlining and aligning services whilst bringing expertise into the APS. Cost-saving is often at the heart of these panel shake-ups, but more often than not the status quo prevails. As a result, the desire to move to future-proof technology is hit and miss.


However, I’ve seen that change can happen when you get change agents within the APS which advocate for a new way of doing things. I know of one such instance where the project management team of a statutory agency advocated back to management the proposed move from traditional premise-based technology, to cloud-based services. In their reasoning for the move to the cloud, this team identified significant savings in project complexity, time to deploy and operating cost.


Although the example above is more the exception to the general rule, I’d like to think we are on the brink of change. Like the citizens it represents, government departments have had to face up to the brave new world of technology as the old copper PSTN lines, and now the ISDN lines, make way for NBN-based connectivity.


This change is prompting many Australians to re-examine how they use the Internet and telecommunications services. For government, the change should prompt a re-examination of technology usage and structure – and who can best help them achieve these goals.


What prompted change in the statutory agency I mentioned earlier was a desire for something different, backed by change advocates. The role of the change agent within government agencies to drive transformation is an important but difficult one and it’s critical they are supported and encouraged in this endeavour. The best change agents need to push through ineffective or counter-productive habits and be able to articulate a vision for the future that builds excitement and engenders others to rally behind the idea.


Like many in the telecommunications industry, I am hoping the review of the APS will create more change agents, who will then use the momentum generated to push their agencies towards embracing the next generation of voice and collaboration services.


Greg Round, General Manager of MNF Enterprise