In brief

In brief

  • When public service organisations become agile, it enables new ways of working across policy, regulatory and service delivery.
  • Agility protects government from disruption, but few organisations are investing in agile practices.1
  • When asked why their organisation has not used agile methods, 43 per cent of public service respondents said they were reluctant to change.2
  • Public service organisations that infuse agility across structure, technology and people will be positioned to respond to constant change.

It’s time for public service agility

Becoming an “agile“ organisation is a term heard frequently within management circles today. And while forward thinkers know it’s the only way to navigate the accelerating pace of change in the public sector, the implications are not as easy to appreciate. Becoming agile enables new ways of working within the digital economy across the core functions of government: policy, regulatory and service delivery.

The future requires a dynamic, adaptive and responsive organisation that is equipped to address the convergence of demographic, socioeconomic and political change, which is compounded by private sector innovation. Agile organisations are able to pivot to a citizen-centric culture that responds to citizen needs the moment they arise. They are also able to deliver dynamic regulatory and compliance frameworks.

Agile organisations balance speed and stability, transcending organisational layers and using technology to power innovation like never before.

Meeting the new imperative

Business and technology innovations have disrupted work, businesses, industries and our entire society. Public service organisations are not immune to the state of constant change in today’s world. In fact, government is becoming a platform for orchestrating public-private connections and delivering next-generation public services.

Change is the only certainty and agility is the first line of defence. However, only 14 per cent of public service organisations surveyed have more than 60 per cent of their funding model focused on agile practices.3 An agile organisation that continually evolves to support innovative service delivery is essential for success. Agility at all levels reduces complexity and increases responsiveness, allowing government to meet the needs of citizens and businesses that they serve.

The anatomy of agility

Public service organisations can infuse agility across the entire organisation:

The backbone: Structure.

Agile organisations take a holistic approach to managing the entire body of the government agency—the people, processes and technology.

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By shaping the organisation with a fast and stable approach in mind, it will be poised for dynamic, adaptive services that meet citizen demands and stakeholder needs, speed up decision-making processes and allow innovation to thrive.

The muscle: Technology.

Among public service organisations using agile methods for IT, 82 per cent saw greater flexibility, while 81 per cent saw improved quality.4

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The core systems within many public service organisations lack the business agility needed to respond quickly to changes, such as new government policies, and respond quickly to citizens’ everchanging needs. New technologies and platforms will allow government agencies to make data-driven decisions, improve operations, drive innovation, and enable personalised and customised interactions.

The intellect: People.

Agile organisations invest in new talent with new skills—27 per cent are hiring new talent with agile skills such as analytics and data science.5

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Public service organisations that have adaptive workforce models offer new opportunities. For instance, self-organising teams centre on customer outcomes—not functions. Siloed, hierarchical structures dissolve. Teams are flexible enough to quickly disassemble and reassemble to take on the next task. And rather than focusing on rewarding tenure and volume of output, agile organisations reward innovation and quality of outcomes.

The heart: Citizens.

There is only one boss in the agile public service organisation—the citizen.

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And he or she can render an entire department irrelevant simply by choosing not to comply. Providing flexible and adaptable experiences to citizens will deliver tangible benefits to government such as increased trust and transparency, greater compliance, less fraud, improved data quality/accuracy and cost reduction.

Accelerating agility

It is time to be fearless rather than hesitant because the potential benefits of agility for government are exponential. There is no single path to follow to become an agile public service organisation. But there are many ways to get started. Take the leap and unleash your agency’s innovation transformation.

1 Accenture Public Service Agile Research, 2018

2 Ibid

3 Ibid

4 Ibid

5 Ibid

About the Authors

Louise May

Managing Director – Health and Public Service, Australia Accenture

Brian Lee-Archer

Managing Director – Health and Public Service, Australia Accenture

Stephanie Gault

Managing Director – Employment and Social Services, Accenture Singapore


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