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EXCLUSIVE - Doing things ten times Better, Faster & Cheaper – the ambitious goals of OneGov

Allan, for our international readers, can I start by asking what is OneGov and what role do you play within the NSW Government? OneGov is a Software-as- a-Service Provider, we were initially established to enable a number of government Departments to move their systems onto one central platform. It was aimed to save costs in either developing systems and/or maintaining these systems. We roll out services more quickly because we re-use what we have already created for others.

What we also discovered was that the public was very keen to use the digital services and over time the demand for mobile services has increased exponentially. We created about 200 mobile services over the last 18 months alone. We are working on key projects such as the ‘Digital License’ with Service NSW, so you will be able to carry your various licenses on your mobile phone rather than as a card or in paper format. It is further aimed to develop digital services over time.

We are also working on ‘Fuel Check’ to monitor fuel prices across the state and that will be a game changer for fuel pricing across NSW –the market will have all the information it needs to make choices on where to fill-up based on the best prices. Not only are we making the information on fuel prices available to consumers over their mobile devices, but we are also making APIs available to industry so they can do their own analytics or build systems.

So that’s the future of where government is going. We’ll be sharing data, with the exception of private information, for analytics. We’ll be using data internally with the creation of the NSW Data Analytics Centre headed by Dr Ian Oppermann. His team will be using data for government decision-making. We will also be opening-up data for use by industry for analysis and developing their own products. So you are a part of the Department of Finance and Innovation and how aligned are you with the NSW Ministry of Innovation and Better Regulation and its drive to digitally transform the NSW Government? We are aligned with Minister Dominello’s portfolio and some of the projects we are working-on relate to the areas to which he has a key interest. For example, we recently released ‘Smart Metre’ where electricians can use their mobile phone to notify the installation of smart metres in housing across NSW. ‘Fuel Check’ is another key project and we are also working on Dashboards.

We have a new direction in my Department with the appointment of a new Secretary, Martin Hoffman, Secretary for the Department of Finance, Services and Innovation. Martin encouraged us with the ambitious ‘Ten Times Challenge’. He said: "What can you do ten times better, ten times quicker and ten times cheaper?" So we’ve picked up that challenge and we’ve done a number of prototypes based on the skunkworks approach to projects, using a hyper agile approach to project management so we can deliver successful projects very quickly.

We operate like a little shopfront within government in that we sell our services to the agencies. We are able to deliver a whole range of services across government and the ultimate aim is to achieve a more customer-centric approach for businesses and the community. We think of a day in the life of a business or citizen and what’s going to simplify the tasks for them.

OneGov works to make it easier for the public to deal with government – a lot of that is through the mobile services. How long has OneGov been in operation and what have you achieved in that time?

We have been in operation for almost a decade now and I’d say that like many IT projects, it started off with great ambitions and significant challenges at the start-up phase. But we have built a great team and have been very successful over the last 5-6 years. In fact, we were recently awarded three awards by the Australian Information Industry Association (AIIA) and last year the Australian Computer Society awarded us Gold for Digital Disruption.

We perform over 400 change requests every year; we work with over 30 government agencies; and we have consolidated over 50 government systems onto the OneGov platform. We also provide solutions for Service NSW shopfronts. You have achieved a lot in that period and at the same time technology has also evolved a lot in that time too. What is your current priority and longer term, what do you hope to achieve over the next few years?

It’s interesting, as I came here to learn about technology, but I’ve actually learnt a lot more about people – how do you engage with people and manage stakeholders. In terms of technology, we created a platform, but we learnt that as technology changes so quickly we are continually adding to the platform which is continually evolving. Of course our team is also acquiring new skills over time too. This has required us to be robust and scalable and more responsive to demand for services.

We’ve just completed an upgrade of our software and we’ve moved into new government Data Centres. The future holds far greater integration– I think a more federated approach to sharing of data over government systems and the release of information over API’s to industry and or government Departments. Whilst we started-off as a transactional based system, we are now getting into the information age with a data sharing model. So how is all of this being funded? We get funded by the agencies paying us for the services which we provide. They pay us for any development work and any ongoing support fees. We have self-funding for our services which is unusual for government. We are also competitively priced and a lot of agencies realise they can get a faster and more economical result by working with us – generally by about 25-30% of what it would otherwise cost them to develop systems. This is because we can re-use what we have already created for other government departments. How do you gauge the ROI or the success of your platform? Well in the early days it was: ‘Could we get money from the clients?’ Then we focussed on KPIs and over time, it’s been more about satisfaction. We are now tracking at 98% public satisfaction for digital services with over 200,000 customer feedback loops each year.

Client agencies let us know quickly of their level of satisfaction and getting a feel for that is very important to us. Of course we want to continue to break-even on costs. We are not here to make a profit, but we want to ensure we are always recovering our costs and that creates a sustainable model for us into the future.

We want to ensure that our own team keeps developing its skills and the make-up and profile of our team has also changed over time and that’s a good thing. We are trying to match the resources to the types of services that people need us to provide.

We’ve taken a more citizen based approach to our systems whereas ten years ago it was a more agency based approach. It’s a change in focus that really helps us drive simpler processes for people resulting in high levels of public satisfaction.

The longer term goal is to create self-service and a level of choice in how people interact with government.

Lastly, what do you think the role of innovation plays within your department?

I get back to the 10x challenge from our Secretary. It encouraged us to set-up an innovation lab where we have regular meetings with small teams of people to come up with ideas on how we can do things better. We now have Intrapreneurs working in our team and we think about what we can give to the public that is going to make their lives easier. This is having great outcomes for us in terms of the services we are delivering.

I think the plans of Minister Dominello to share and improve people’s access to information and data in order to help them with their lives is the future. I think we will also certainly be making transactions easier for the public.

Allan, it’s been a pleasure talking with you and thank you for your time.

Allan Henn will be speaking on the role big data & analytics plays in solving the challenges of government at the upcoming NSW OpenGov Leadership Forum in Sydney on the 13th of September and again at the Australian OpenGov Leadership Forum in Canberra on the 15th of September.

Minister Dominello will also be speaking at the NSW OpenGov Leadership Forum in Sydney on the 13th of September while Dr Ian Oppermann of the NSW Data Analytics Centre will be speaking at the Australian OpenGov Leadership Forum in Canberra on the 15th of September.

For more information on these events, please contact leon.kantor@opengovasia.com

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