[LINK] govCMS: transforming the way governments operate online

Bernard Robertson-Dunn brd at iimetro.com.au
Mon Nov 30 14:19:52 AEDT 2015

I hope they don't forget that the thing that really matters is the 
information, not the enabling technology.

govCMS: transforming the way governments operate online
The Mandarin

The govCMS platform is revolutionising the way government agencies 
publish content — and collaborate with each other. It’s built on a 
global network renowned for technology solutions.

There’s a technology revolution spreading across Australian government — 
and it’s set to completely disrupt the way agencies publish content and 
manage their websites.

But the govCMS project is more than just a new way for sites to manage 

First announced in 2014, it not only represents a transformation in how 
agencies can rapidly roll out major technology solutions, but also in 
how they collaborate to create mutually beneficial systems in ways and 
at speeds never before seen in public service.

By partnering with an established and respected technology group in 
Acquia to help roll out a simplified, unified CMS for all levels of 
government, the Australian government has also signalled its dedication 
to embracing innovation from outside the traditional public agency 
sphere to tackle large, crucial technology problems.

Yet even more important is the result. Without the burden of complex 
technology infrastructure management and maintenance, government can get 
back to doing what it does best: leading and guiding citizens with 
information that benefits them the most.

When the Australian government first announced the availability of the 
Drupal-based govCMS, the reception was one of surprise — and delight. 
The government would be following in the leading footsteps of the White 
House in delivering public service technology.

Equally surprising is the rapid pace of deployment the new CMS allows.

Eight months after launching govCMS, 49 government sites are now 
operating on the new platform and 12 are in development. With the 
service available to all Commonwealth, State and local agencies, more 
than 120 agencies are engaging with the service and there is a growing 
pipeline of govCMS activity.
“… build it once and share it with other government agencies at no 
further cost.”

Agencies including IP Australia, the Shared Services Centre, the Civil 
Aviation Safety Authority, the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority, 
the Australian Tax Organisation and the departments of Finance, Social 
Services, Communications and Prime Minister and Cabinet all have live 
sites on the platform.

Developed in partnership between Acquia and the Online Services Branch 
of the Department of Finance, govCMS is more than just a cost savings 
initiative — it will enable agencies to collaborate in ways never before 

“The real strength of govCMS is the ability for teams to create extended 
functionality — build it once and share it with other government 
agencies at no further cost,” said Sharyn Clarkson, assistant secretary 
of the Online Services Branch in Finance.

Clarkson is in a unique position to view digital development in 
government: she recently spent seven months helping set up the new 
Digital Transformation Office, working with people from across the 
Commonwealth public service.

Clarkson was able to take and apply that experience in her role at 
Finance, where her team manages a range of government digital platforms 
including govDex, govSpace, AusGovBoards and the Google Analytics 
Premium service to all tiers of government.

One of the main frustrations with the current system is that there are 
hundreds of content management systems in use across the Commonwealth. 
That splinters collaboration opportunities, but also spreads resources. 
Each time an agency needs to make a change, the same activity is 
replicated across each agency.

Uniting under one platform, across all levels of government, isn’t just 
a global-leading technology simplification initiative — it means 
agencies at any level will have access to the same robust systems, 
simplifying infrastructure, management and maintenance.

“We work with digital teams all across the Commonwealth, state and local 
government as our services are used by many agencies,” said Clarkson. 
“We have a unique perspective, particularly to spot the gaps, from this 
role we have.

“It’s not easy to work together across boundaries. Everyone is using 
different systems; we thought there were things we could do to improve 
that situation.”
An established partner in Acquia

Clarkson says partnering with a large and respected group such as Acquia 
gave the government the stability for the core offering — Drupal 
application management and hosting.

Such requirements are easier to manage when working with an established 
enterprise solution. An added benefit, Clarkson says, is that “using 
such an established enterprise partner means tapping in to their 
considerable expertise and capabilities” (this is crucial as 
communications and web teams across government departments can differ in 
size, composition and capacity).

Finance plays a large part in govCMS, managing the procurement, IT 
security accreditation and compliance against standards including AGLS, 
accessibility and Digital Service Standard.

Clarkson said: “Our aim is to take all the hard work out of it for 

Finance also works with other partners such as Akamai, which provides 
security against distributed denial of service attacks, and a content 
delivery network. Local SMEs provide specialised services such as 
design, onboarding and migration.

The quality of the service lies in its flexibility, Clarkson says. 
Agencies can onboard to the full service or use Drupal without it.

“Agencies can go to Drupal.org, download the govCMS distribution, and 
they can use it any way they like — on their own internal hosting or on 
a hosting provider of their choice,” she explained.

“Agencies can build the sites themselves, then we can pick it up and 
bring it into the govCMS platform.”

“Agencies can build the sites themselves, then we can pick it up and 
bring it into the govCMS platform. They can ask another agency to build 
on their behalf, they can get a local business to build their site or 
they can ask Acquia to provide an SME partner to perform the work.”

The ability to collaborate and rapidly deploy technology solutions is 
taken to a new level with govCMS. Any agency will be able to use 
components used for others.

The Department of Communications built a dedicated policy engagement 
module which enables stakeholder interaction — formal submissions and 
informal comments on prospective legislation or other types of change by 
government. That capability will now be available to all other sites on 
the platform at no further cost.

Clarkson says these types of custom modules are desired — future 
government websites won’t have to start from scratch. They can extend 
what already exists or reuse what another agency has provided.

“I hope in time that I will see agencies collaborating and co-building 
pieces of functionality where there is a common need,” she said.

“We’re committed to being good citizens of the open source community — 
that means giving more than we take, and it means everything we create; 
our distribution and any modules we develop are openly available on 

The change and release process for new functionality sits openly on 
Github as well. It means anyone can participate, propose ideas and 
critique different options. Any decisions reached are completely 
transparent to agencies and the entire Drupal community.

govCMS is dynamic — it will grow and develop according to the needs of 
the users, Clarkson says.

While there is more work to be done, Clarkson says Finance is “excited” 
so many agencies have come to govCMS, saying the agency is “building a 
strong community around the platform … the opportunity to co-create and 
work together to solve common problems has been a key reason agencies 
have joined”.

“We’re excited that so many agencies have come to govCMS in such a short 
space of time and how strongly this vision is driving their adoption,” 
she said.



Bernard Robertson-Dunn
Sydney Australia
email: brd at iimetro.com.au
web:   www.drbrd.com
web:   www.problemsfirst.com
Blog:  www.problemsfirst.com/blog

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