“Our slogan at DTO is only new mistakes. We don’t care if you make a mistake, but only new ones, please,” Australia’s Digital Chief said this week at Innovation Labs World.

“The most important thing from our perspective is to learn from the things that don’t work,” Paul Shelter, Chief Executive of the Digital Transformation Office (DTO), Australia, said in his keynote speech.

Governments should “focus on getting design right; your delivery cycle should be shorter; and you should be testing with your users all the time”, he said.

“The really important thing is you have to get things in front of real users, otherwise you’ll never know [whether they work]”, he added. “We start small, we deliver quickly, and we iterate very, very often”.

Such agile delivery is enabled by cheaper technologies. The cost of setting up networks, storage and computing “has gone so low”, that “you can now focus all your effort on building the very best possible product”, he said. “That’s what has raised the bar for government service delivery, and that’s what we have to do to be able to compete.”

DTO supports agencies across federal, state and local governments to build products that meet user needs and launch them in the shortest timeframe possible. The DTO sets out a 20 week timeframe for all levels of government they work with to come up with a viable product.

The DTO has also set out the Digital Service Standard that any new digital service in Australia must pass, Shetler added.

There are 13 areas in this, including understanding user needs; having a multi-disciplinary team; using agile and user-centred process; understanding tools and systems; and making it secure.

DTO itself builds platforms that cut across government. Its latest product is a Digital Marketplace to simplify government tech procurement from businesses – especially startups and SMEs.

“We’ve built a marketplace that makes it very easy for Australian public servants to bring in talent to help them build these services,” Shetler said, adding: “It’s one thing to talk about being lean and agile. But if your procurement processes take weeks or months, then you can just throw that lean and agile out the window.”