Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Introducing a common web reporting platform across federal government

Over the last few years I've often thought about the value of having a complete picture of web traffic to the Australian government.

This would require a common way to track and report on the usage of each discrete government website and the ability to track and measure the traffic between them over time (using anonymous user data).

I see enormous value in this approach. Firstly it would help government departments holistically understand how citizens see the inter-relationships between different government services and information across agency boundaries.

Secondly it would support smaller agencies to cost-effectively develop appropriate reports and access the data they need to improve their online presence and provide ROI for online initiatives. Rather than web reporting sophistication being a factor of agency size it would become a consistent core whole-of-government capability, regardless of agency size, budget, technical skills and inhouse web expertise.

Thirdly this approach would help executives and web professionals moving between government departments as they could expect a consistent level of reporting for the online space no matter where they worked. This would cut down learning curves and help improve the consistency of online channel management across government.

Finally, having standardised and consistent web reporting would lead to consistent and more accurate reporting to parliament of the overall size of the government's online audience, and the share held by each department, supporting decision making for the use of the online channel.

So could this be done?

I think it could.

We have precedents for whole-of-government licenses in the use of technologies such as Funnelback for search (which crawls all government sites for and is available for departments to use for their web search) and Adobe Smartforms for business forms (via

The technology for whole-of-government online reporting is readily available without requiring major changes to how any department operates. The reporting could be deployed simply by requiring the addition of a small piece of code to every web page on every site, as is used by systems like Google Analytics and WebTrends On-Demand. Departments could even continue to also use their existing in-house tools if they so chose or exclude websites where special circumstances applied.

Through aggregating the reporting function, more funds and expertise could be focused on producing more meaningful and useful reports. Standard report templates could be developed for departments to use - or not - as they preferred.

Finally, this approach would provide cost and procurement efficiencies for government. Only one procurement process would be necessary to select the product, rather than individual processes being conducted by various agencies. The scale of the federal government means that government could purchase and maintain the tool at a much lower cost per department than it would cost a department to purchase an appropriate tool.


  1. There is probably scope to do this across a whole range of things for government, a kind of #au2gov cloud of services. I can understand this might stink of impractical centralisation, but I think this is why its time to apply some Web 2.0 thinking to these kinds of ideas. Small pieces, loosely joined.

  2. The Victorian State Government had a whole of government web analytics view which was centrally funded for 4 years from 2003 - 2007 using the Nielsen Online Market Intelligence service. This enabled demographic profiling of the web audience as well as a whole of government view of site centric usage. Unfortunately, this was discontinued in September 2007. Reports from this project are available on the eGovernment Resource Centre -

  3. Hi Cheryl,

    Is there a public record of why Victoria's whole-of-government web analytics was discontinued?

  4. We have been thinking exactly the same thing. Everyone seems to be grappling with the intricacies of web analytics and how to measure the performance of their website. We are hoping to initiate a govt user group to share experiences and discuss how we can implement and report in some sort of standardised manner. If anyone is interested in being part of this user group, please email me - - and I will contact you when we have a definite aenda.

  5. Hi Karen,

    It sounds like an ideal area for grassroots public sector innovation.

  6. Unless the technology is easy, open, free and not dependent on the whims of the government of the day, its potentially just a big waste of time. While you might get the big players on board with something like Urchin, the smaller outfits will baulk. But there is already one service which many agencies use that almost fits the bill, and you mentioned it in your post: Google Analytics.