As featured in the Canberra Times.


“Silent Running” is the name of a 1972 science fiction film set in a spaceship somewhere near Saturn at a time when much of the life on Earth is becoming extinct.  

An astronaut, played by Bruce Dern, is ordered to destroy the last of Earth's botany, kept in a greenhouse aboard a spacecraft. 

While life deserting the planet sounds like what occurs on the Friday of a summer long weekend, “silent running” is also the term for an operating state that, if initiated across Australian government departments, can change the way the Australian Public Sector works. 

Make no mistake, the APS is under scrutiny and about to undergo change. The Albanese Government is committed to curbing spending on contractors, consultants and labour hire, which it says ballooned by $3 billion over four years under its predecessors. 

In 2015–16, the Digital Transformation Agency says departments spent $6.2 billion on I.C.T. goods and services. In that same year, government agencies estimated that they were locked into $9 billion of procurement across 17,000 contracts. 

We know that technology platforms are the foundation for running business applications in government departments, and indeed in all enterprises of any size. 

A technology platform achieves a state of “silent running” when its I.T. operations are data-driven and move from “top-of-mind” to “out-of-mind”. 

This occurs when intelligent automation comes into play.

Think of a departmental I.T. platform as a large resort comprising serviced apartments and hotel accommodation, providing room service around-the-clock. 

Hotel guests put in orders for thousands of meals. When analysed, their orders are for six different dishes that can be cooked by three chefs over the course of an eight-hour shift. 

Most of the serviced apartment customers, on the other hand, have kitchenettes and prefer to cook their own meals. They’re self-sufficient.

Think of a help desk working in a similar way, with a ticket requesting assistance being the equivalent of a meal. An analysis of events in a department shows that hundreds of tickets raised each day stem from two or three issues with common causes. 

A smart technology platform learns to correlate tickets with system events, leading to faster detection and resolution of problems. 

It will learn to automatically predict and prevent future problems before they happen, telling system managers when a server is about to run out of capacity or a database needs a re-build.

A smart platform can also help system users treat many problems themselves – “self -heal” – and they become like serviced apartment guests. 

A large Australian Government Agency that was struggling to meet a sharp rise in demand for services during the pandemic, bravely and selflessly looked outside its ranks for urgent support. It put the citizen first. The involvement of the private sector systems integrator enabled engineers to detect two critical bottlenecks in the Agency’s data systems, bolstering much needed support for the community within days. 

The crisis “fix” worked so well that the agency has stuck to the same approach to drive its five-year plan and operations.

Overseas experience shows intelligent automation in a large organisation prevents up to 15% of mission-critical system outages, avoiding costly business disruptions. 

It reduces incident volume by up to 30%, enabling a laser focus on real problems, and it has been shown to automatically diagnose or resolve up to 75% of incidents without human intervention. 

AEON, a leading retail company operating over 19,000 stores in the USA, used this methodology to re-imagine its employee experience for approximately 570,000 people.  

At last count, the APS had 153,945 people across eight states and territories. 

Empowering those people to focus on work that’s more important, productive or enjoyable is what “silent running” is all about.  

About the Author

John Crampton is the Cloud, Modern Workplace and IT Services Lead for DXC Technology Asia-Pacific.

Public Sector

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