NSW digital transformation strategy to include startups and scaleup opportunities

NSW Minister for Customer Service Victor Dominello, has signalled there may be future opportunities for the NSW Government to engage agile startup and scaleup businesses,  in the revamped digital transformation strategy.

It is encouraging news for smaller entrepreneurial companies worried about being swamped by bigger players in the chase for Government sales. 

“If you’ve just got the two big players in the room well then you’re going to be pretty much guaranteed a certain outcome,” he said. “Technology changes and whether it’s a small provider or a big provider – ultimately, it’s the jockey who determines the outcome of the race,” he said.

“Small and agile – funky if you will. We want both cutting edge (tech firms) out there – and the big staples,” said Minister Dominello. “You need everything.”

Minister for Customer Service, Victor Dominello

Dominello, who is charged with improving customer service across government, said  there would be pathways within the government’s IT strategy to be released in the coming months. 

While acknowledging that the NSW government has traditionally favoured engaging  large tech firms,’ Dominello told NE that he’s also interested in pursuing fairness and diversity.

“Technology changes whether it’s a small provider or a big provider. I love competition and I love diversity and I love a great ecosystem, so you will always see from me a framework that encourages that ecosystem,” he said..

Dominello said he would rely on expert “technocrats” to make decisions about a range of providers who may be able to assist the government as it looks to centralise and simplify its customer service offerings.

The UK experience

Mike Bracken, the man responsible for overseeing and improving the UK government’s digital delivery of public services – saving the British Government about £4.1b – has been in Australia advising the NSW Government. 

Bracken’s firm Public Digital now advises governments in 30 different countries on digital transformation.

“I’d probably say you are leading the world in how you are thinking. And, for brand visibility and transparency I’d have to give you a great deal of credit,” he said. 

Bracken says he thinks NSW is one of just a few places in the world  to lead the way with its approach to financial management of the digital transformation of government.

Mike Bracken, Digital Transformation Expert

But Bracken says there are challenges ahead to introduce digital transformation at pace.  

“You still have far too many websites. You are still not making government simple enough for users of government and their needs. That lack of simplicity and not being able to find things quickly and using the same words, means that when you want to do those advanced things – particularly around advanced technology – it makes it all that much harder,” he said.

Bracken’s mention of simple language is something that the public service has struggled with for decades. 

A stream of high-priced consultants’ language or jargon that means little to customers has long permeated the culture and the face of NSW Government.

“As we know institutions love complexity and institutions love talking about how complex and special they are.  Actually, what digital government requires us to do is to make our institutions more transparent – to be very simple – to be relentlessly consistent in how we set to meet the user needs,” he said. 

And, Bracken admits that NSW had struck on something “quite profound” with its digital transformation of Service NSW.  

“The challenge is to drive that simplicity and consistency through the institutions. If you do that it’s hugely efficient and money drops out the other side.”

Minister Dominello is determined to deliver what he says will be his biggest achievement in government.

“My biggest achievement is yet to bear fruit,” he said. “The restructure and reorganisation of government. What we have done by creating a cluster for customer service has really put the customer at the heart of everything we do,” he said.

“It really changes what we now think as a government that is probably the most important thing. We want to have a look across the customer journey,” he said.

“It’s easy for me to be a Minister of a given agency and preach from the rooftops, but to actually inculcate that culture right across the whole of government is the hardest thing to do – and that we are aiming to do in the next four years,” he said.

NSW Digital Transformation Jobs

Despite top analysts predicting digital transformation will lead to job losses, Minister Dominello is unperturbed about the future for the state’s public servants. 

“I think its job creation and job re-location.” 

“With Service NSW we’ve created that beautiful alchemy. In the back you’ve got all the machine grunt, but in the front, you’ve got the high EQ of people dealing with, and serving people, face to face,” he said. 

“Every time you remove a website or a form , it means you can put more people on the front end – or more importantly people in the back end .”

He said  people using their brains to think analytically and strategically and looking for deeper insights, should be a priority for employment rather than people just moving paper around.

The Minister said  even public servants who are not ‘digital natives’ will be brought along on the journey. 

“Everybody brings different skills to the table. As long as they have an open mind and an acknowledgement that we live in a new world in the 21st century, then I think there’s a place for everyone,” he said.

“I frequently say to people that if they have been serving the public for a long period of time and they are not digital natives that’s fair enough. They bring deep knowledge and information to the table. Great skills that we need. 

“But they equally need to say I don’t know how to fly this plane in the 21st century so we then need to make sure they’ve got a co-pilot.  So we then need to make sure we’ve got a co-pilot. It doesn’t mean we abandon them.“

With a mammoth but not unachievable task ahead, Minister Dominello said his delivery formula will be easy to follow. 

“If your formula is simplicity plus consistency it will translate to speed and agility. If you’ve got speed and agility then you can start delivering 21st-century customer service.”