Delivering the benefits of robust government architecture

The Australian Government Architecture is a decision-making construct that supports the ICT lifecycle – from strategy to prioritisation, contestability, sourcing, assurance, and operation.

Caption: A metaphorical representation of government architecture as a city.

Our architecture story

In early 2020, we set out to build a whole-of-government architecture.

We thought we understood the problem we were trying to solve and developed foundational architectural tools such as the Business Capability Model, the Government Business Model, the Platform Operating Model and the Integration Framework to support agencies and government to invest in integrated capabilities.

The more we progressed down this path, the more we understood that our ‘users’ were more expansive and not limited to architects. This meant that our stakeholders weren’t connecting with the products we were developing. We needed to cater to the needs of not just architects but policy specialists and senior decision-makers. Around the same time, we announced the DTA’s new mandate to provide digital strategy and policy leadership and support government’s investment decision-making.

So, we changed course and reconstructed our notion of a whole-of-government architecture. It went from designing an architecture ‘of’ government to an architecture ‘for’ government.

This moved us towards our current focus, on delivering the Australian Government Architecture (AGA), which clearly conveys the strategic outcomes that government is working towards through its digital investments, such as better digital experiences for citizens and business, secure online interactions with government and digitisation of services for greater accessibility and convenience. It further describes the requirements of new digital investments that will work towards these outcomes, and provides standards and designs for how new investments should be delivered to meet these requirements.

The aim is to create accessible and consumable guidance to allow stakeholders to quickly find and understand expectations for digital investment, from both public and private sector perspectives.

It was a hard decision to change course; a lot of effort had gone into the outputs from what was a multi-agency taskforce and expectations of delivery were mounting. In a true representation of agility, we pivoted towards a new approach that was much better suited to our mandate and the broader audience of the work.

But the benefits of our new approach are many. By aligning strategies, policies, standards and designs, we are able to:

  • increase the reuse of existing patterns, services or platforms across agencies and maximise our ICT capabilities
  • better track the government digital asset landscape through DTA’s role in digital investment oversight
  • drive consistency in the strategic direction and policy settings through a common construct.

Progress in our new direction

In late 2021, the domain and capability model was developed and shared on the DTA website, with the first 6 standards of the AGA released. These standards form the basis for how the DTA assesses digital investment proposals through the Whole of Government ICT Oversight Framework.

Since then, we have worked with agencies to expand the AGA to encompass a further set of standards, which we are looking to release in an upcoming revision. We have also focused on communicating the AGA to the APS and industry, while continuing to test its application in relation to the DTA’s investment role through progressive Budget cycles.

Our next steps in the journey

The AGA needs to be dynamic and remain current in a fast-paced digital landscape, so it must be able to adapt to new innovations and support new ways to evolve our digital capabilities.

In the coming months, we intend to release an update on the DTA website. It will include an interactive, self-service online tool in the form of a library of guidance materials. The AGA will be accessible to agencies, as well as industry and the public, in a way that is searchable and navigable based on user needs. This will encourage standardisation and reuse across government.

The release will also include a refresh of some of our existing DTA website content relating to Procurement and Sourcing, Cloud Computing and Hosting, to better align and access through a one-stop-shop for DTA’s policies and standards.

Call to action

Agencies and industry are invited to contribute designs, standards and patterns to ensure the AGA remains contemporary, with the DTA as the steward.

The public service has a huge breadth of digital capability and expertise that can be drawn upon and, using the AGA, will be collectively leveraged to focus on closing gaps in digital delivery.

To assist with this, we’ve partnered with the Digital Profession to create an Architecture Community for the sharing of ideas and experiences across government. To join, you need to first visit Digital Profession Membership to register as a Practitioner (don’t join as an Associate Member – Associate Members don’t get to view as much as Practitioners).

Once registered you can join the Architecture Community and contribute to the ongoing development of the AGA.

Summarising our key learnings

The key takeaways we’ve made from this journey are that the architecture needs to be:

  • contributory – the public service needs to draw on expertise from across its operation
  • accessible and consumable – agencies need to be able to self-serve the guidance to inform their strategic investment planning and proposal development when they need it
  • dynamic – in a fast-paced digital landscape, the architecture needs to evolve as quickly as the solutions do
  • enforceable – the architecture needs to connect to the investment framework to enforce its outcomes.