NSW’s Digital Design System (DDS) useful to agency digital transformation efforts

As an IT Director at the state level, I saw many efforts to consolidate, dictate and in some cases, assist agencies with central IT efforts or initiatives. Recently, New South Wales, Australia, released valuable advice and standards that show the value of having a central body vetting and designing a way forward for states, territories and local council efforts to embrace digital by default and digital transformation.

In my view, this is uncommon, but desperately needed. My own experience was that standards and attention from central bodies were more often focused on budget and staff centralization, not the nuts and bolts of making a promising (and philosophical) technology possible at my agency’s level.

Digital transformation, or digital by default, is an essential next step for local council, state and territorial government. Coming as it does when smartphones are our computers, online is our world and electronic transactions are how we interact, it is imperative that government IT keeps up. The challenge is how to move forward, making wise investments and scoping impactful projects with scarce IT resources and staff and a full plate delivering services and programs to your citizens.

That’s why the Digital Design System, or DDS, is such an important and meaningful assist.

Even if digital transformation is inescapable, that doesn’t mean the details of HOW to move forward and what capabilities and qualities that support digital by default are obvious. That’s where DDS really shines.

Create with purpose and respect privacy

A key component of DDS is the requirement to connect the design and execution of solutions to citizen service. This may seem obvious, but too often, the funding that drives program delivery requires data collection, compliance tasks and forms that has nothing to do with citizen service. And, because of these responsibilities, the solutions we have invested in match the needs of funding and compliance and not service to citizens.

With DDS, citizen service takes its rightful place in the design of solutions funded by tax dollars.

Like this commitment to serving citizens, a commitment to achieving consistency across agency approaches, design elements and expected functionality is also a way to serve citizens. Predictable functionality that meets citizen expectations is another way to improve service. When interactions perform the way we expect, we are more satisfied. Sometimes users make mistakes and the solution fails.

Even if a mistake is because of the user, it still erodes satisfaction. This approach to solutions is underappreciated, as consistency of design and user interface means less frustration for our customers and deserves attention in any design standards.

Design with users, for users

Having rightly pointed solution creation to a purpose, the connection between DDS and citizen service starts with a critically important point – it acknowledges that our services and interactions need to be online. Designing for users has to answer the fundamental question of access to information. The difference in the digital world is what and how your government business is supported.

Choosing to approach transactions and information needs through websites, digital by default acknowledges our citizens’ preferences. That’s the “for users” piece of the standards. For our internal users, this also supports the idea that we will demand design that meets staff needs as well.

Smart IT investment – reuse and repurpose, continuously improve

If DDS only dealt with users, purpose and privacy would still have great value for agencies; however, by including the ideas of reuse and repurpose, and striving for faster delivery with no duplication, DDS establishes principles that can lead to better IT investment. With DDS, agencies can look to other progress, build new solutions on existing, successful components and even increase staff expertise for development and support by fostering a familiar set of tools to build solutions.

This system may have approached IT from users’ perspectives, but keeping up with those expectations (fueled as they are by private sector drivers) can be immeasurably assisted by smart IT investment in platforms that favor low-code, shared service and reusable tools. Following DDS will be a great strategy for IT because it intersects with strategies that allow IT to be agile, cost-effective and impactful.

Digital Design System follows on good work to identify and support the improved user experience at the heart of digital by default and digital transformation initiatives. It also represents positive leadership and the promise of central IT leadership taking the road of supporting overall efforts in a positive way that is less about consolidation and budget cutting and more about achieving the value and quality of service that digital transformation promises and our users deserve.

Terri Jones

Terri Jones

Wondering what goes into a document management or ECM software deployment in government? Terri Jones, Hyland's government marketing portfolio manager, has your answer. In her 10 plus years in both state and local government, she's managed IT departments, implemented ECM strategies and written legislation and program policies. If that isn't enough to prove her IT expertise in government, she has also designed and implemented data systems and websites to manage compliance and funding in excess of $90 million annually. Have a question for her? Contact her at terri.jones@onbase.com.

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