In late January, the digital strategy of Service NSW had a long way to go, according to Bruce McGregor – particularly if the organisation was to meet a July deadline for delivering its online portal, the organisation's head of digital said.
"The timeframes were tight, the budget was limited and fixed, and there were multiple stakeholders," McGregor said.
The creation of Service NSW was announced by the state's premier, Barry O’Farrell, in July 2012. The intention is to offer a 'one-stop shop' for government services, with NSW residents able to access them through 18 Service NSW centres, a 24-hour call centre and a single Web portal.
"We had to build a service within a couple of months," McGregor said. Despite the short timeframe for rolling out a complex Web portal, the agency managed to beat its deadline – albeit, by a handful of days – by employing the open source Drupal Web platform.
McGregor's team used aGov, a distribution of the Drupal content management system specially tailored for Australian government agencies.
For the site, Service NSW worked with Sydney Drupal shop PreviousNext, which built the aGov distribution.
aGov hit beta in November last year and is targeted at agencies that want to quickly roll out websites while still being compliant with public sector guidelines, including the mandatory accessibility standards developed by the Australian Government Information Management Office for federal agencies.
Although the distribution was initially built for federal organisations, it can also be used by state-based organisations to deliver accessible websites that use responsive design principles and incorporate workflow management, event management and other features. PreviousNext is also working on making it easier for state and local government agencies to use aGov.
When it officially launched in July, Service NSW offered access to around 500 state government transactions, but that number is expected to grow, according to McGregor.
Originally the agency had intended to quickly build a limited site that could go live to meet the deadline, while working on a second, more sophisticated and complex-to-build site. However, by using Drupal and aGov, Service NSW was able to quickly build a single site that can be expanded as more government transactions are added, McGregor said.
Drupal is also powering the Service NSW intranet.
The site is entirely hosted in Acquia Cloud: A cloud service specifically optimised for Drupal-based sites, including support for aGov-based websites.