Re-Imagining Effective Work

Re-Imagining the Grants Management Process via the Digital Transformation Office

20150515budget

In the Australian Federal Budget last week a good chunk of change was set for digital transformation across the Australian government:

The federal government has set aside more than $95 million to establish the Digital Transformation Office inside Malcolm Turnbull’s Department of Communications, part of a $255 million pool targeted at enhancing the public sector’s digital credentials.

The establishment of the DTO is forecast to cost $95.4 million over four years from 2015-16. It will exist as an ‘executive agency’ within the comms portfolio.

One of the key projects for the new Digital Transformation Office is to build a common grants management platform, with $107 million on tap:

The single portal will deliver a single site for grants seekers to search and apply for opportunities, and agencies will be expected to align the way they process grants programs with the new scheme.

This is a commendable effort, and holds the seeds of a good collaborative approach to a common issue / challenge / problem across many government agencies. A common platform gives a single way of doing things, drives consistency and best practice, and should simplify the search / discover process for grant seekers.

With no knowledge of the plan apart from the single sentence above, I hope that the Digital Transformation Office goes a couple of steps beyond just commonalizing the grant application process.

(1) One step beyond would be to collect performance data on the different grants given out across agencies. This would require the definition of a performance evaluation framework that could allow some degree of comparative analysis.

(2) A second step beyond would be to use that performance data as input to future grant rounds. For example, to look at what has performed well in the past, and assuming that’s still the intent, to fund such activities again into the future. Or at least to draw lessons from the grants that have performed well as strong suggestions for new grant winners.

On both of these steps, I recall well a discussion with ISW – an IBM Premier Business Partner in Australia – who had built such a system for an Australian federal government agency. Using various IBM tools, ISW was able to deliver cognitive analysis using post-grant performance metrics to drive greater decision clarity for future grant rounds.

A common grants management system is a solid first step; well done Australia. The two steps beyond would be truly transformational.