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EXCLUSIVE – Maximising knowledge and improving customer delivery at Service NSW

You’ve got one of the more interesting job titles that I’ve come across. What is actually the role of a Chief Knowledge Officer (CKO) in the context of Service NSW? 

What I do at Service NSW is that I oversee the knowledge management portfolio spectrum as well as keeping my finger on the whole of government perspective. I maximise the value of knowledge, the eco-system throughputs maximising intellectual capital interoperability. The best way to describe is, if a CMO and CIO were to have a baby, in my opinion, that’s the CKO. I know a lot of other professions are claiming that as well but based on the bona fide knowledge economy index (KEI), that’s what Knowledge leaders do.

Basically I’m responsible for the information that people act on, the information that makes people do something (this is one of the differentiators between information and knowledge). Once it hits maturity level, it then falls into maintenance process mode of continuous improvement. Beyond that it transitions from Knowledge Management (KM) as a Service to KM as a Practice. KM then becomes part of everyone’s every day and becomes normal practice within business and government.

Is it a growing role? Is it more a federal agency or agencies within NSW bringing it onboard? 

Absolutely. Back in 2000, there were probably about 3 or 4 employers that would hire ”knowledge professionals”, they used to be the top IT and global companies. These days, there’s a lot more, so you’ll probably see senior executive level knowledge roles advertised once a quarter. 16 years ago back in 2000, you are lucky if you have one of these executive level roles advertised once a year. So the knowledge industry is growing and the important aspect of that is being at the front of it. I’m honoured to be recognised in that capacity glocally. 

I’ve been really enthusiastic in making sure that I am one of the best in the  knowledge industry, I like taking things from concept through to market, and making sure they don’t fail and that is one thing that I will do for knowledge management as an industry here in Australia, across Asia and globally. Going forward I am seeking to make a greater impact in this area because there’s a market shortfall. There must be CKOs in all National Governments throughout the world, especially the G20 nations. These CKO’s would be accountable and responsible for the knowledge economy index. Currently APAC nations have oscillating KEI scorecard. This is because there is no-one person at the helm driving this. KM is a relatively new transdisciplinary career with a strong strategic imperative, compared to others. The private sector adopted, embraced and advocated KM decades ago, in other manifestations. Governments are playing the cautious line by embedding KM into the public sector. I agree with this approach as it costs more to roll back if it doesn’t work. The private sector have yielded strong ROK (return on knowledge) scores, Governments are now embracing it and seeking the same smarter outcomes and benefits.

It must grow into a more national framework oriented role because the macro level of knowledge management is often not well-known or understood, the final ripple impact resides with the World Banks Knowledge Economy Index. I believe it’s my role to actually be one of those people to not only do what I do but also educate, train and advocate along the way as well.

In terms of your role, what are the key initiatives you are trying to drive in Service NSW? 

At this point in time, I have produced the capability build for KM. The strategic frameworks are in place and now is the time for me to be down on the ground, getting the oversight in the ‘jelling’ of it to make sure it all comes together. So for example, one thing I am currently working on at the moment is supporting the roll out of Australian Business Register (ABR), in particular with our ‘easy to do business’ programme. The ABR is the central knowledge repository for all registered business information in Australia so having that single source of truth is incredibly valuable in my knowledge mind-set, leveraging that to where it needs to be and having it scaled to where it needs to go appropriately to make it easier for people to interact with government. This constitutes the Economic Incentive and Institutional Regime of the World Bank’s Knowledge Economy index.  This covers all aspects pertaining to Tariff & Nontariff Barriers, Regulatory Quality and Rule of law. To me, I’m seeing it as my little golden child in terms of knowledge, that’s the journey the rest of these single source of truth repositories will undergo. I believe it is also a way to shape data management going forward as well. So we can have all the data put into its rightful repositories and protect it, to be leveraged where it needs to be.

That’s doing things at the Australian level, so are you doing this in conjunction with some of the federal agencies? 

Absolutely, the Australian Taxation Office (ATO), ABR and the DTO are all involved but essentially the initial impetus for NSW is Service NSW’s Easy to do Business programme. Once again this comes back to the knowledge economy and how easy it is for people to do business. So what we’re doing is reducing the red tape associated with it all across the 3 levels of government - state government actually has the most interaction out of those 3 in relation to starting a business. So it makes sense for us to actually tackle that piece first, once we get that done, it becomes repeatable a process. The impact will be easier to do business truly because the outcome and final ripple effect is that we are going to have more businesses and economic stimulus as a result, which all feeds back to the knowledge economy index.

What is Service NSW looking to achieve and how are they digitally transforming the way they provide services? 

We’ve got a digital first premise and promise. The whole reason behind digital first is for self-service as a service (SSaaS). We’re enabling and delivering on this. We live in a technology-driven society at the moment and we’ve already been through these types of transformations, particularly in the banking sector. Government is literally removing the confusion and empowering the customer base with everything they need to do with government in a way that is far more efficient and effective, that is what our knowledge mantra is. That essentially gives us an impact statement that we do not lower our service levels but we do lower our costs, therefore allowing us to reinvest those savings back into delivering more services to the customer base. 

How do you balance the need for legacy architecture in this agency with the new technologies that need to be implemented? 

Our architecture here isn’t legacy, so I’m kind of fortunate in that respect, we’ve got a benchmark architecture team here. Architecture is not hard and fast, it can be fluid and things do change, we’re all susceptible to market forces. So in my opinion, social architecture emphasises the people priority, talent in technology and solution speculation. To me this is incredibly valuable and so why would you even entertain the thought of or the idea of even replacing it if it is still fit for purpose?

My perspective is do your best to make it scalable. If an architecture map is that much of a legacy that it cannot stack up and perform against disruptive technology, then it’s not a good architecture is it? In this case rip and replace is most likely the only option.

You’ve touched on security, that’s a growing concern amongst governments and citizens. There were incidents that happened and there’s reputational damage and financial costs. Do you think governments are doing enough to protect themselves and what else can be done in the world of cyber terrorism?

Yes, I believe we are. I believe the Australian government is putting in every concerted effort to mitigate, as much as possible. To me, it’s an issue because it’s a recurring risk. Will it ever be 100% solved? No. The Australian Signals Directorate are doing a brilliant job with helping protect our own. I think we need to take a little more of a stronger stance and let the customers (citizens, business and industry) within Australia, including government, treat this issue like a marriage. Government can only do half, the other half of the security blanket comes from the customer base, they have some shared role and responsibility.  If the customer base aren’t willing to do it, it’s just going to make government more susceptible, particularly from an insider threat.

We’re increasingly talking about the workplace of the future and there are 3 things that are changing that quite dramatically: one is technology, one is cultural diversity and the other is gender diversity. How do you think these things are changing the way Service NSW looks and operates?

Our CEO is female, 50% of our executive leadership team are female, so we’re ticking that gender diversity box. The Employee Women’s Choice Awards has been around for a while in Australia, and it’s great to see that momentum occur. I’d like to see more females at the board level, there’s not enough. I’d encourage the metamorphosis to extend beyond just culture and gender diversity to the equality index. Diversity encompasses more than mere culture and gender. 

What does the future hold for you and Service NSW? 

We will be offering 70% of the high-touch, high-impact transactions that government serves. So essentially it positions us in the market as the preferred. This is further reaffirmed by our exceptional 98% customer satisfaction scorecard, so we’re a benchmark at what we do at SNSW…it’s make us the preferred supplier as an options generator. Providing as many options for people to reach the end point quicker and smarter than before. I believe Service NSW is the strongest player to achieving this options generation. So we’re basically putting the power back to the customers’ hands and letting them drive it. It positions SNSW as a market pioneer. It positions me to be the National or APAC CKO for Government.

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