The Digital Transformation Office’s has completed an early beta of its much anticipated – and controversial – Performance Dashboard product, which is expected to be launched within a couple of weeks of next Saturday’s election.
The dashboard is a public platform for easily consumable data metrics on the government’s service delivery performance.
The DTO started the project in February, and has had a publicly available Alpha version of the product since early May. The Beta version is understood to have been ready for some weeks, but its formal launch delayed until the public service caretaker conventions that govern the election period are lifted.
The dashboard service is straight-forward in its simplicity, but quite revolutionary in its potential impact on service delivery programs. As with other parts of the DTO program, the Performance Dashboard project borrows heavily from the UK’s Government Digital Service dashboard program.
The DTO’s dashboard Alpha uses data from the Department of Human Services’ myGov authentication engine (a service the DTO will has been given additional funding to improve useability.)
The dashboard’s Alpha dataset is not especially illuminating (although it does show that myGov is only accessed through smartphone devices by only one-in-five users, putting it at odds with consumers, and that the proportion of smartphone users is not growing, which puts it at odds with the market.)
With the launch of the beta product, citizens will start seeing data covering the four mandatory key performance indicators as set out in the Australian Government’s Digital Service Standard.
Specifically, for government services that attract more than 50,000 transactions annually, all departments and agencies are now required to collect data on User Satisfaction; Digital Take-up; Completion Rates, and Cost Per Transaction. The collection of this data is mandatory (just as it will be required to be public.)
The user satisfaction metric will help departments and agencies continually improve user experience, while digital take-up numbers will help with strategies to move users on to digital channels.
The completion rate data should provide specific detail on which parts of a service need to be fixed. And cost per transaction data will help make service delivery more efficient.
It is the act of making performance data against these metrics public that changes everything. By putting the performance data in the public domain, it forces on-going service improvements. And by publicly measuring the cost per transaction, it enables one agency to be measured against another agency for the efficiency for the delivery of a similar transaction.
Departments and agencies will also collect data to help measure and monitor how they are performing against metrics like error rates, time to completion, and costs, benefits and return on investment. The DTO has also introduced content metrics on indicators like readability and length.
The myGov service dashboard is just one of many hundreds of service performance dashboards expected to be delivered over the next several years (the UKs GDS has more than 800 service performance dashboards and nearly 50 web traffic dashboards.)
The performance dashboard beta also builds in improved user experience features. The DTO has also been working on improving standardised data, so that service levels for similar transactions can be more easily compared – to see which department or agency is performing better then others.
The DTO is also working on strategies for better measuring end-to-end services, including service delivery that crosses Federal-State-Local lines of jurisdiction. This adds a whole other layer of complexity.
It is easy to see why the notion of a public dashboard is unloved in the public service. It has the potential to expose a multitude of issues. But my making the data available, the dashboards should normalise service performance as a metric.
That is, instead of shocking headlines that arrive when, say, an Auditor General’s report is published on the performance of a given department, the metric is simply a public benchmark against which to improve things. It becomes a trend line for service improvement.
The release of the myGov data is understood to have caused many furrowed brows. It is understood the Department of Human Services were not happy about its public release, and that the re-written Digital Service Standard released in May was developed as a result of those negotiations.
Regardless, the myGov performance dashboard is just one set of data, albeit an important one, across all of the many services that government delivers.
Performance dashboard will be added to whole other areas of government, including procurement. With the release of the DTO’s marketplace place product, it will become a lot easier for the public to see which companies are supplying to the public sector.