Breaking the Cylinders of Excellence (in the Australian Government)

YOW-Nights_Logo_stackedAt the recent YOW! Night in Brisbane (as well and Sydney and Melbourne), Lindsay Holmwood (the Head of Technology at the DTA) presented “Breaking the Cylinders of Excellence”. It was a rare experience to hear the story of how the DTA is using cutting edge development practices to help the government catch up with, and even exceed, the public sector. 

 

  • DTA – aid transformation in government, small agency
  • Delivery hubs in Sydney and Canberra – help identify and plug capability gaps in teams
  • Prototype of how government services could work  gov.au/alpha
  • Digital Service Standard – 13 characteristics on what good looks like in government, useful in organisations as well
  • Cloud.gov.au  – government cloud service, usage growing, continuous delivery pipeline (which is a major change for government who are used to 2 changes per year)
  • The unit of delivery is the team – not about individuals, but the team – borrowed from GDS
  • Government is slow, but government is designed to be stable, they cannot fail, they have characteristics that are resistant to change
  • Myth that organisations must choose between speed and reliability, high performing organisations deploy more frequently, have shorter lead times, fewer failures and recover faster, but they also have a greater profit
  • Want to deliver like a startup but be stable like a government
  • Not a lot of cross pollination between departments currently
  • Read the policy! – quite often the process is not mandated
  • Document what works and doesn’t so it becomes a repeatable pattern – ie. running a meetup inhouse, don’t tell me I can’t do it, tell me how I can run it without being thrown in jail!
  • Stick with technologies the government is comfortable with if you are changing the delivery engine
  • Security matters – prevention is a battle you will always lose, detection is your best defence – aggregate and log in one place, identify threat signatures, etc
  • Embed security people on big services so it is part of the architecture
  • Proactive testing between different governments around the world on similar platforms
  • Simplest security breaches make the most mess – infected excel macros, leaving free USB keys in the foyer that are malware infected
  • Need to put user needs first – alpha mockup using tools like Jeckyll, then beta then live
  • Lots of people strictly interpret the design and delivery guides – they are guides not rules!
  • Create a longer runway by pulling tech forward – turn down the volume of design, turn up the volume of tech
  • If it hurts, do it more often!
  • Fixed cost delivery with agile is a thing, agile is a way to de-risk in the government
  • Don’t put manual testing on the critical deployment path – have special skills on hand for accessibility, performance and security
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