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A Framework for cross-government digital investment oversight 

Lines with neon lights

Any government seeking to develop world-leading digital services needs to make the right digital investments. Developing a government digital investment oversight framework (the ‘Framework’) could provide a structured process for a government to guide the digital investments necessary. 

As well as the Framework, governments will need to ensure an appropriate oversight function exists within government. This function could be established within an existing central government finance function or as a new purpose-built digital investment function. With either approach there will need to be close alignment with the core financial/treasury function. 

It is critical that the oversight function has clear, appropriate authority and the resources to undertake the role. 


The following high level George James Consulting report discusses a Framework that governments could consider adopting to support digital government outcomes. 

What should be in the Framework? 


A Framework to guide government digital investment needs to be an end-to-end process that reflects the full investment and project lifecycle. This means from the inception of the idea responding to the business challenge, through the pre-budget planning processes, decision making components, to implementation and delivery. 


The Framework is the interface between the oversight function and the agencies required to follow it and guides their respective responsibilities. 


In this Framework the phases can be broken down as follows: 

Phase 1 – Strategic (pre-budget):

Used to define the Government’s strategic direction for its digital and investments. Corresponds to an agency’s strategic ‘thinking’ work. 

Phase 2 – Prioritisation (pre-budget):

Refinement of choices with the prioritisation and alignment with strategic direction. Corresponds to an agency working through investment planning. 

Phase 3 – Decision (budget):

Ensures proposals are sound and meet wider government expectations. Supports decision makers to consider options with reference to government digital requirements. 

Phase 4 – Sourcing (implementation):

Supports government to obtain efficient (value for money) and effective wider government digital investments outcomes (enabling cross agency collaboration). 

Phase 5 – Assurance (implementation):

Provides assurance to the Government that investments are on-track to deliver expected benefits/throughout their lifecycle. 

Phase 6 – Operations

Collection of intelligence on the ongoing hygiene of the Government's investments to support management of risks. 

Criteria for application of the Framework 

The Framework should ideally be applied to all government digital investments that meet the criteria determined by the oversight function

This includes investment that utilises technology as the primary means for achieving expected outcomes and benefits and could include investments which are: 

  • transforming the way people and businesses interact with government; 

  • modernising government in a way that improves the efficiency and effectiveness of government operations; 

  • within a defined threshold or investment category. For example this could be a monetary threshold (all digital investments over $100,000) or category (all Financial Management Information Systems).

Planning with post it notes

Strategic phase 


The Strategic phase (1) of the Framework is used to outline the overall direction for the government’s digital investment portfolio. 

What happens at this phase? 

The strategic phase is used to articulate the direction for a government’s investment in digital. This direction will guide expectations around how digital investments will deliver services and outcomes for the government and citizens. The strategic phase should closely reflect the government’s overarching ‘Digital strategy’. 

Why is this important? 


Strategic planning can support a government build the capability needed to deliver digital objectives. The oversight function can use the data from this phase to develop understanding of its current and future investments and emerging capability gaps. 

By having an agreed direction (digital strategy) and supporting architecture and a shared view on opportunities and risks, the oversight function is able to provide the Government with a clearer pathway to deliver its digital transformation. The strategic phase ensures the Government’s investments in digital reflect cross government strategic digital priorities, and how they are supported by individual agency projects. 

What do investing agencies need? 

Agencies must ensure digital investment proposals support the outcomes of existing cross government strategies. The oversight function should provide guidance to agencies on how they should align proposals with the strategic direction set by Government, and ideally address cross agency capability gaps. 

What the oversight function could do 

To support the government achieve its outcomes the oversight function could work with agencies to identify key capability gaps across the government landscape as well as opportunities for sharing capability and the reuse of digital solutions and platforms. The identification of key capability gaps or risks will form the basis for prioritisation of digital investment. 

Prioritisation phase 


The prioritisation phase (2) of the Framework supports the prioritisation of digital investments across the government. 


What happens at this phase? 

As part of the prioritisation process, the oversight function should work with government agencies to: 

  • identify the pipeline of proposed medium-longer-term digital investments

  • analyse the cross-agency pipeline of investments to identify gaps and reuse opportunities and improve the visibility of future projects across government; 

  • prioritise investment proposals against the Government’s digital objectives; 

  • through the pipeline, deliver a cross government multi-year investment plan with a 3-to-5-year horizon to support the Government strategically plan what to invest in and when. 


What do agencies need to do? 

The prioritisation process relies on agencies engaging with the oversight function as early as possible when developing proposals that need to come through the budget process. This will help to identify a 3 year, 5 year and 10-year pipeline view. The pipeline can then reviewed by the oversight function with the respective agencies as part of the prioritisation process in order to provide advice to decision makers. 

What the oversight function could consider: 

The prioritisation process should include the assessment of investment proposals using agreed cross agency criteria. This could include elements such as: 

Enabling easier engagement with government for individuals 

  • Whether the proposed digital investment makes it easier for individuals to engage with government services. Investments are more likely to be supported where they include: support the ongoing modernisation from analogue to digital; 

  • those that are easier to use and are more accessible; 

  • the ability for individuals/citizens to engage in an end-to-end way centred around key interactions and/or life events; 

  • where they are consistent/standardised with under centric design; 

  • clearly demonstrate reduction of duplicative data/information or processes for individuals to increase the efficiency of the interaction(s). 


Enabling more efficient engagement with government for businesses ​

  • Where the proposed digital investment is likely to support broader businesses, industry and non-government entities to be more efficient and productive through easier and more effective access to services via the (proposed) digital asset. This could be reflected with: the transition from analogue to digital; 

    • solutions that make it faster and easier for businesses to engage with government; 

    • the removal of duplicative processes and interactions for businesses; 

    • increasing accessibility of government to a wider cross section of society; 

    • new opportunities for business to contribute more and innovatively; 

    • reduction in the costs of compliance and administrative burden (i.e. red tape) on businesses. 


Improving government productivity 

  • Whether the proposed digital investment improves the overall productivity and/or efficiency of government. This could be reflected with: 

  • quantifiable value or productivity improvements for digital efficacy that offsets implementation costs particularly where it is cross government; 

  • the re-use of existing digital capabilities from across government; 

  • supports interoperability with digital capabilities from across government; This may include specific common or shared capability approaches; 

  • new digital capabilities that could be provided for cross agency sourcing, shared capability, or high potential future re-use. 


Enabling the modernisation of government 

  • Whether the proposed digital investment further enables the government to continue modernisation in the digital age in a flexible manner that takes advantage of emerging digital opportunities and potential challenges. This modernisation may also include the decommissioning of legacy platforms or services where this offers transformational and/or risk reduction opportunities. 

  • Investments can be reviewed against cross government digital, data, cyber security strategies, as well as broader digital economy direction. 

  • Where the investment uses and/or supports priority re-useable cross government capabilities. 

  • Where the investment supports government use of emerging digital technology including Industry 4.0 capabilities. 


Ensuring government systems are secure 

  • Whether the proposed digital investment enhances the security of government digital and data resources or mitigates risks that would make government vulnerable. Investments may be encouraged that contribute to the protection of networks, enhance cyber security and incident response capability, and contribute to the management of government security risks. 


Improving government reputation 

  • Whether the proposed digital investment supports or enhances the reputation of the government, including the likes of privacy and security, as well as outcomes such as trust and confidence. 

  • Investments in this category could directly strengthen the confidentiality, integrity, or availability of data and the digital systems they utilise. This could be more broadly reflected as increasing the underlying resilience of government. 


Decision phase 


The decision phase (3) of the Framework is designed to validate that digital investment proposals being considered are sound and meet government standards. Decision makers should be provided good information on the investment proposed, a cross agency perspective, and the evidence base to make confident decisions. 

What happens at this phase? 

The oversight function works with government agencies on digital investment proposals and reviews them against cross government digital policies, best practices and standards to ensure they are aligned strategically with the government’s stated objectives. 

The oversight function provides feedback to the proposing agency on any actions required to better align the investment and make it more generally sound. The oversight function will also provide advice and recommendations to the decision makers as to whether this should support the proposal. 

What do agencies need to do? 

Agencies need to engage with the oversight function oversight function as early as possible when developing a digital investment proposal for the government's consideration.

Agencies need to provide the oversight function with evidence the proposal seeking funding aligns with cross government digital strategies, policies and standards, and that the proposed initiative can be successfully delivered. Additional evidence to support a new digital investment proposal could include the following: 

  • Business cases; 

  • Technical details – design and architecture; 

  • Risk management plans; 

  • Sourcing strategy and procurement plans; 

  • Assurance plan; 

  • Benefits management plan. 


What the oversight function will be doing 

The function providing oversight of the Framework will need to work with the government agencies to assess proposals against-government digital policies and standards. This ensures that the proposals are sound, evidence-based and will achieve stated benefits. 

The oversight function should also consider assisting proposing agencies in developing adequate assurance plans. 

Digital policies and standards 

The oversight function will usually have direct and/or ancillary policy responsibility for a range of digital domains. The kinds of policies and standards that could be used to assess the proposed investment could include: 

  • Digital service standard - A set of best practice principles to help agencies design and build digital services that are simple, clear and support the needs of users. By following a Digital service standard, agencies can make sure digital services provide public value. 

  • Digital re-use policy - The direction that agencies must consider how the proposed investment supports reuse of the services or tools by the agency and/or cross agencies, that the proposed investment is designed and build for reuse from the outset, and that the agency is actively enabling other agencies to reuse the asset. 

  • Digital sourcing policy - Guidance for agencies that follows principles including: being user-centred and usability; allowing for innovation by outlining business needs rather than a prescriptive way to promote discovery and innovation; early engagement and wide consultation of stakeholders; considering whole-of-life costs rather than just initial costs requiring new funding; and aligning with cross government requirements to ensure that digital investments deliver outcomes at lowest cost and effort. 

  • Secure cloud strategy - the cross government digital policies and standards that the DTA uses to specifically assess whether a digital investment proposal adequately considers the risks and issues with cloud-based solutions and follows country specific policies (such as data sovereignty, and cloud hosting requirements etc). 

  • Cyber security policy - the cross-government security policies and standards used to assess whether a digital investment proposal is robust and secure. 

  • An assurance framework – Guides work to provide assurance over the delivery of digital investments so that they: are well planned; fit for purpose; support decision making by Senior Responsible Officials (SROs) and porting delivery; support escalation processes to help minimise risk of not delivering benefits; and provide a flow of good information on the status of major investments to senior decision makers overseeing the digital investment portfolio. 

  • Benefits Management Policy – This should define how benefits will be managed across the digital portfolio. The policy supports agencies understand the requirements to successfully deliver the outcomes sought and the oversight and reporting required. 

business board meeting

Assurance phase 


The assurance phase (4) of the Framework provides assurance to decision makers that investments will deliver expected benefits. 

What happens at this phase? 


During this phase, the oversight function will provide decision makers and key stakeholders confidence that the assurance arrangements are adequate. 

Why is this important? 

The purpose of this phase is to ensure assurance is effectively undertaken to support the implementation of investments. In this phase, agencies will be supported to: 

  • activate the assurance arrangements identified during the decision phase; 

  • support targeted and assurance, with the use of assurance information to improve the quality of decisions by officials and governance boards; 

  • maximise the value of assurance in supporting successful delivery, including through ensuring agreed recommendations are implemented; 

  • apply clear escalation protocols which support decisive early action to recover investments at higher risk of not delivering expected benefits; 

  • provide reporting major investments with supporting analysis for the decision makers responsible for the digital investment portfolio. 


What do agencies need to do? 

Agencies need to ensure that they can meet the requirements for good practice assurance planning. There may be specific government direction and guidance around assurance. The nature, scale, and risks of the investment may require the agency to undertake additional activities during the operational phases such as regular updates to the assurance plan, getting independent assurance reviews and including the oversight function on governance committees. 

What the oversight function will do 

Once an in-scope investment is agreed by the government, the oversight function begins monitoring the implementation of assurance arrangements and verifying that minimum requirements continue to be met. 



Sourcing phase 

The Sourcing phase (5) of the Framework ensures the government gets ‘value for money’ digital procurement arrangements. 

The oversight function may also be responsible for cross government digital procurement. In some jurisdictions the government may coordinate cross agency procurement functions/panels. These functions can streamline the procurement process for agencies and save time and effort by providing standard contracts with lower costs and better offerings. 

Where the oversight function does not coordinate cross agency procurement, the onus will be upon the proposing agency to show how its sourcing plan supports cross agency objectives. 

Operations phase 

Regular data collection will provide intelligence on the size, health and maturity of the Government’s digital investments. 

This process also allows for the long-term progress against the government’s digital transformation to be tracked over time. This includes collection of information relating to: 

  • Adoption of emerging technology. 

  • Reuse and shared capabilities. 

  • Project delivery status and confidence 

  • Capability allocation (such as staffing levels and use of third party resources). 


Insights from this data supports the oversight function in its ongoing role with digital projects under assurance. Insights from data collection will inform best practice approaches in the future delivery of digital assets. 

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