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Australian gov't assesses electronic services

Australian gov't assesses electronic services

A significant challenge for Australian government in developing electronic services is working out what specific services people need electronically and what the value is to both government and people in deploying these services. A new product of the Australian government, the Demand and Value Assessment Methodology, helps government agencies assess the relevance of the services they provide.

A significant challenge for Australian government in developing electronic services is working out what specific services people need electronically and what the value is to both government and people in deploying these services. A new product of the Australian government, the Demand and Value Assessment Methodology, helps government agencies assess the relevance of the services they provide. Until the Australian government's E-government Benefits Study was published in 2003, information on the benefits to people and business of e-government services was often underestimated by agencies. In fact, it wasn't clear whether customers really wanted or valued the e-services being provided. Government recognized the need for consistent methods of assessing demand and value and consistent mechanisms for measuring e-government service delivery. A key component of the study was to define an approach and methodology for measuring both the demand for an e-service and the potential value of the e-service.

The Demand and Value Assessment Methodology (DVAM), released in 2004, does more than simply assist in monitoring and evaluating e-government services. It adds to service improvement strategies that were introduced by the Australian government's 2002 Better Services Better Government strategy. The strategy highlighted the government's customer-centric approach, focusing on convenient and trusted access for users, integrating services between agencies, and being more responsive to what users wanted.

The DVAM focuses on achieving this customer-centric approach by helping agencies develop transparent and auditable assessments of demand and value for specific electronic programs. Using the detailed guidance offered by the DVAM, agencies can develop data to support their business case, demonstrate users' needs, and even prove the viability of the initiative or service. The DVAM can help agencies justify investments in new programs and services. It can help agencies demonstrate transparency and accountability, another key objective of the Better Services Better Government strategy.

Demand and value have been chosen as the two key criteria because consideration of demand enables government to assess a service from the perspective of the end user. Rather than implementing a program for implementation's sake, demand assessment directs the provider to start with the end user and determine the nature of their needs and how they might be best attended to.

Value is a more traditional assessment, typically centered upon costs and benefits. However, in DVAM, social and governance implications are also quantified. Value assessment encourages agencies to articulate the intangible value the e-service might generate in a social sense. Many government programs deliver benefits beyond cost savings. The value of these benefits needs to be clear.

The development of the methodology drew on both international best practice and the experiences of leading Australian government agencies. It provides a standardized system to forecast and articulate demand and value of e-government services.

The DVAM is designed for key business managers within government agencies responsible for investigating, planning and implementing electronic programs. In practice, key business managers would work in conjunction with other agency personnel who contribute the business and technical information required to assess the demand and value of the electronic service.

The DVAM works interactively to capture information that helps business managers gauge and forecast how well a proposed electronic service can meet market demand and generate valuable results. The DVAM includes a detailed manual, supporting activities and spreadsheets.

The methodology is based on a five-step approach.

The methodology is designed to be used within agencies and is complemented with professional training (provided by Interaction Consulting Group) and supplemented with agency-based case studies. Participants are encouraged to bring their own e-service initiative along to the workshop to allow them to work with the methodology through a real-life example. They are introduced to the methodology though a combination of theory, group discussions and activities; and provided with their own workbook (to keep) complete with examples and references.

The methodology itself is provided free of charge to agencies. Agencies are encouraged to feed back any improvements they make with each application of the methodology. The feedback program provides the means of sharing any further improvements and adaptations to the methodology, as uptake is broadened across government.

The Demand and Value Assessment Methodology to assess Web sites and online service delivery is in line with the ANAO recommendations. More information on the DVAM is from the Department of Finance and Administration Web site www.agimo.gov.au/government/damvam. -- CIO Australia

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