Government departments, by and large, have missed out on the great productivity wave of the last 10 years — but Australian companies like archTIS are helping them into the light.

In 2012, respected consultancy McKinsey put together a comprehensive report on how social sharing tools could revolutionise productivity. [PDF].

It concluded that a whopping $900 billion to $1.3 trillion worth of value could be created by getting companies across the spectrum to adopt social sharing technologies within their organisations.

This would account to a 20 to 25 percent boost in knowledge worker productivity as the sharing of information became seamless.

While several industries have benefited from the adoption of social media sharing tools within the workplace since 2012 — government departments have been left behind.

“There is a good reason for that. It’s mostly that those departments hold very sensitive information so they’ve been very hesitant to share that information using a third party platform,” archTIS CEO Daniel Lai told Star Investing.

ArchTIS (ASX:AR9) has started rolling out its Kojensi Gov cloud collaboration platform, designed specifically to enable secure collaboration, to different government departments here in Australia with an eye toward international expansion.

It has a long history of security consulting for government departments, so it has in-depth knowledge of the exact problem those departments are facing.

It’s also started winning the formal trust of key government departments, such as the Attorney General’s department.

So Lai knows what he’s talking about when he says that government departments have a long way to go before they’ve matched the collaborative prowess of the private sector.

Driving around in my automobile, classified information beside me at the wheel

Describing the current collaborative practices of government departments as “slow at best, but for good reason”, Lai said those in government departments were frustrated at the way information was being shared.

Take the development of new policy.

When departments wish to collaborate on policy, they develop a draft after consultation with multiple agencies, interested parties and individual submissions and end up with multiple versions — which they email around.

But dealing with a substantial amount of detail and data, the files can become unusually large — which can trip up internal firewalls.

This has started to change with Gov Teams, a government-built platform which can hold unclassified information — but progress remains slow.

Then, if the files become classified in nature, for example for Cabinet consideration, they’re placed on a different system altogether which not all participants have access to.

All these barriers are there to ensure maximum security of sensitive information, but paradoxically, lead to very insecure practices.

“For instance, it’s quite common that a minister will ask their chief of staff a question in the middle of the night, but because that collaborative space isn’t there, they’ve literally got to drive around Canberra in the middle of the night to find the answers,” Lai said.

“Once they have the documents they need to fulfil the request for the minister, they’ll have to drive back — with all the sensitive information literally on a thumb drive.”

Yep. You read that right.

“So you have all these security arrangements in place, but you have all this shadow IT stuff going on — which is really hard to control,” Lai said.

It’s hoped that a secure cloud collaboration platform like archTIS’ flagship Kojensi Gov product, which has been set up specifically with governmental parameters in mind, will help cut out the inherent security risk carrying around USB sticks full of sensitive data.

It’s also hoped that it will lead to more engagement in government agencies, and therefore more bang for taxpayers’ buck.

“It’s like banging their heads against a brick wall”

Workers coming from the private sector into the government workforce are often shocked at the levels of bureaucracy inherent in getting simple things done.

The pace at which the private sector has been adopting collaborative cloud solutions means that for a large portion of the knowledge workforce, sharing is just an inherent trait.

When they come to a government department and see all the layers of complexity inherent in trying to collaborate, it’s disheartening.

“It’s like banging their heads against a brick wall,” Lai said.

“It really hits their morale because they want to be dynamic and productive, you want to spread and diversify your skillsets and bring teams together.”

For all the talk of process and practice, the lack of a truly collaborative workplace is hitting public servants’ morale — and that in turn is costing taxpayers money.

“Well-engaged employees are 43 percent more productive because they don’t dread the grind of going to work, so that in itself tells a story,” Lai said.

Moving to a more collaborative mindset is key for the Australian public service (APS), as Department of Defence secretary Greg Moriarty noted earlier this year.

“We are still not where we need to be in today’s increasingly complex, challenging and contested security environment,” he was quoted by The Mandarin as saying.

“It’s part of the reason why APS [collaboration] reform is critical to Australia’s future success; we have to find ways to work more closely together and with partners outside the APS.”

The message here is that the traditional way of working, of trading away collaboration for security isn’t getting the best outcomes — and it’s here where Kojensi Gov could act as a circuit-breaker able to provide both.

“As soon as people see it [Kojensi Gov], they understand the productivity gains instantly,” Lai said.

“They instantly start engaging with the platform…because it’s really clean and easy to use, and I think the overriding emotion is relief that now they can come to work and do their best work.”

This content is produced by Star Investing in commercial partnership with archTIS. This content does not constitute financial product advice. You should consider obtaining independent advice before making any financial decisions.