Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Drawing on experience within your Department for online initiatives

It is common practice for government Departments to go to consultants when they need specific skills or experience. The strategy is often to draw on this expertise to get started, transfer as much knowledge as possible to staff and move forward.

However sometimes it can be more cost-effective to draw on the existing skills of people already employed within a Department - insourcing rather than outsourcing. In many cases staff have past experience that is directly relevant to an initiative, or may even have expert knowledge in the area.

This is particularly relevant for online initiatives. Web development skills are not limited to degree-qualified IT staff and there are many people with experience in scripting HTML, Javascript, PHP and similar languages who might not choose to work in an ICT area.

Equally social media engagement skills are not limited to Communications professionals. Forrester reported late last year that about 45% of Australians have joined social networking groups, 35% comment on blogs and forums and 26% are content creators - writing blogs and articles and/or posting videos and photos online. Matt Hodgson has a good blog post on this topic, Social media engagement: What are Aussies doing?.

It is extremely likely that some of these people are public servants and work in your Department - not necessarily in the Communications, Web or ICT teams.

If you can identify these staff and enlist an hour or two of their time each week you may be able to build a sustainable online engagement team without needing to rely as heavily on consultants or other outside expertise.

This insourcing approach has been used successfully in the private sector and in the public sector in other jurisdictions. For example the UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office encourages diplomatic staff to blog and the US military is encouraging servicemen and women to engage in social networks.

So now you know where to find experienced online professionals, all you need is to identify them.


  1. Good suggestion Craig. There seems to be a default-to-outsource modus operandi in the public service rather than make the most of talent and knowledge that exists internally. I would say that many people would jump at the chance to demonstrate their skills and abilities...if that were to be supported by senior management. But there lies the problem. It's easier to manage (and blame) a consultant that manage staff and be held accountable for the outcomes.

  2. Hi Craig

    Thanks for the link love.

    As a former public servant myself I agree with @conem's comment. I had lots of expertise but no one was willing to listen to it.

    Now that I am a consultant I am specifically hired for that expertise. In this work, though, I try to pass on that knowledge to empower those I work with to keep going with things when I leave. Sometimes this is what is needed in order to ensure senior management start listenning to their operational staff members.