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Developing a data informed and agile public service: takeaways from the FST Government event in New South Wales

FST Government is about connecting the public and private sector and they hold a series of events nationally with keynotes, expert panels and presentations from various industry, or related, luminaries. Usually, there’s “something for everyone”, with a wide range of themes around the central event theme.

Hosting at the FST Government NSW 2018

This year, at the New South Wales event, which I attended, developing a data informed and agile public service was the main theme, with some fantastic and very noteworthy speakers. Avi Shavit, Strategic Advisor Cyber Security, for the Israeli government, spoke about Israel’s approach to cyber security and the emphasis they put not just on technology, but on innovation, entrepreneurialism and Israeli culture. Clive Dickens, from Seven Media, also spoke and discussed the ever-increasing reach and importance of video and evolving patterns of consumption and demand. From the government side, the premier of NSW, Gladys Berejiklian, spoke and then was followed by a procession of senior figures, most of whom had at least one “Chief” or “Director” in their title, sometimes both.

Empired, and our technology partner, AvePoint – the global leader in the support and management of, and migration to, the Microsoft cloud – were there as Platinum sponsors of the event. This meant we were able to host two discussion round-tables (plus, supply drinks and duck pancakes at networking drinks at the end of the day). Each round-table seats eight people, for five sessions so, that’s around 80 senior government people with questions on their minds and looking for answers, insights and maybe even some entertainment.

Government is a huge, complex, sprawling organism, interlaced with an infinite number of variables in terms of complexity, constraints and culture and it would be brave – and ill-advised – to suggest a “one size fits all” approach or solution to any given business problem. So, when eight people arrived at the table, in most cases without knowing each other, the plan for the next thirty minutes was to facilitate a peer discussion that was broad, interesting, engaging and valuable. This required us to become a combination of subject matter expert, talk-show host and therapist. Fortunately, each table had two facilitators! We were joined by Aidan McCarthy, the former Director of Worldwide Teaching at Microsoft, now the Head of Digital Transformation, Catholic Education WA and Ed Ismailov, the former Chief Information Security Officer at BNP Paribas Bank, now a Senior Compliance Specialist for AvePoint.

Our tables discussed two separate topics. The blue table discussed “Digital Transformation – the Mad Max approach”, drawing on Aiden’s expertise and experience. An intentionally eye-catching topic headline, but with a serious point: the patience and goodwill of your organisation, and your budget, will only stretch so far without results. Sometimes you just have to keep moving forward without looking too much in the rear-view mirror at the carnage behind. Of course, this is easier to accept in private industries than it is in public organisations, which must delicately negotiate around internal cultural concerns while balancing the expectations of the public, represented by an ever-watchful media. So, the discussion here is about how to harness, rather than oppose, your organisation’s culture and how to achieve what’s possible with the budget you have, rather than wait for the budget you want.

Our second table discussed “Compliance and Security in a dangerous world”. Deliberately designed to reflect the ever-present and growing cyber security threat combined with an increasingly tighter regulatory environment in the form of GDPR and the mandatory Notifiable Data Breach scheme in Australia. We were lucky to have Ed Ismailov join us, in between international speaking engagements on the subject.

Naturally, the discussions went pretty much where they wanted to go, ranging far and wide. But, core themes and concerns came up consistently: the imperatives for digital transformation and the need for better security vs the constraints of culture and budget. Thirty minutes disappeared in the blink of an eye, then the tables changed, or it was time for another presentation or a break.

My personal takeaways from the event are that there are many smart and committed people in government, trying to push forward an ambitious agenda to improve across many fronts, including Customer Experience, data, security and compliance. Examples of progress include public apps such as “Fuel Check”, the digital driving licence, and a new procurement portal. These are important and valuable initiatives but, based on the conversations we had, there’s much to be done internally, particularly around the Employee Experience (EX). There’s a lot of low-hanging fruit here, if we – collectively, as a government and private sector partnership – can be smart about it. Empired, in partnership with New Zealand government has shown that a collaborative, centralised approach to core business application such as ECM/EDRMS does work, while recent events such as Microsoft’s new data centres will allow Empired to offer this service to all of Australian government. When we layer on top of that the compliance capabilities built into Microsoft 365, it should be possible for agencies to move quickly from “zero to hero” to improve EX, and in turn move forward the “digital on the inside” agenda.

Consolidation, centralisation and collaboration are enablers for the federation of systems and data that will in turn provide the platform for improved access to, and value from, business data. This will in turn enable “trust as a service” for government and its customers, where critical business and personal information can be leveraged, but protected, as part of “open government”.

The end of day networking provided an opportunity for further informal discussion over a drink, while trying to discreetly consume canapes. I found myself thinking about some sort of wearable device, perhaps an earpiece or glasses, connected to a digital assistant on a phone that’s electronically reading information stored on people’s event badges: “To your right is Harvey Wallbanger, CIO at Department of Digital Consumption. Harvey is interested in discussing the business case for moving to cloud CRM/ECM. I’ve downloaded Harvey’s business card to Outlook.”

I work with some smart people – maybe we’ll try and figure that out for next year. In the meantime, if you’re reading this and would like to discuss your real-world business problems, or would just like to catch up for a drink and a duck pancake or two, please do get in touch.

Posted by: Doug Baxter, Solution Specialist | 15 June 2018

Tags: Digital Transformation, Business Transformation, FST, Government

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