Address to CEDA — Gavin Slater

14 September 2017

Our CEO Gavin Slater spoke at an event hosted by the Committee for Economic Development of Australia in Melbourne on the human impact of digital transformation. Read the transcript of the speech.

Friday 8 September, 2017

Good afternoon everyone.

Digital transformation is spoken about now in just about every single industry boardroom management team.

What I’d like to talk about today is humans and the impact digital transformation can have on people’s lives.

If I can start by taking you back. I finished school in the early eighties, and spent a couple of years in the army and didn’t know what I wanted to do. So I joined the local bank as a batch processing clerk.

And now imagine this — sitting in a room at the back of the branch literally two finger typing, punching in vouchers that are coming from the tellers to process value. Quite a humbling experience, as I, sort of thought about was this what my life is going to be?

But it was interesting in those early years of banking, what it gave me a real insight into as technology was brought into banks, was the power of automation.

And most of the focus then was all about automation. It wasn’t about customers, it was really about reducing manual intervention and taking costs out of the organisations. In a sense, it’s always triggered my fascination with the power of technology and what it can achieve.

If I fast forward on thirty-odd years, I still have that fascination with technology but my orientation has changed.

I often talk about how if you take new technology and overlay it onto an old organisation, you just end up with an expensive, old organisation. You really need to think about what problem you’re trying to solve, what business outcomes you’re trying to achieve, and therefore what you need to enable — and technology is only a part of that.

So in terms of the federal government, it was certainly a great honour to be asked by the Prime Minister to take on this role, which I started in May. When I met with the Prime Minister, I asked him, ‘well, what’s your vision? What are you trying to achieve here? What are your ambitions at a federal government level?’, and he said there’s three things that we want to achieve: more digital, better digital, and more effective use of taxpayers’ money in relation to what we spent on ICT.

So these three ambitions that just make infinite sense, in my opinion, in so many industries.

You want to be able to offer more of your products and services digitally, so that your customers can interact digitally only. Secondly, in doing that, you want to provide a better experience for your customers, and thirdly, you want to get a better return on investment for your shareholders or for taxpayers in the case of governance.

These are the three big ambitions and the role of the DTA, to work across government to align a very large complex organisation around those three ambitions, and to, in a very sensible way, work out what a roadmap looks like over the next twelve/twenty-four months, how that informs investment decisions, so that we get on and deliver.

But if I think of the context of digital transformation, there’s two things that still resonate for me today. There’s no silver bullet to any of this. For the consultants in the room, you talk about the leaders of change; people, policy, process, technology and so on.

But there are two things I really like to call out. This first one is customer centricity, and the second one is data — two key areas of focus if you’re thinking about your own digital transformation journeys.

Customer centricity. What we know is what most of us want in our day-to-day interactions. Be it with government, be it in the private sector — you want things to be easy, you want them to be secure, you want it to be accessible so you can do things anytime of the day. Wherever, however, whenever you choose. And importantly, you want to feel valued, and you want to be respected.

If you’re a customer of government, or you’re a customer of an organisation, and you have been for many years, they should know some things about you — why do you have to keep telling them things about yourself? This is where the human element really comes into user research.

I’d like to share a couple of real stories, in relation to customers of government, individual citizens, trying to get things done with federal government.

So the first one is a fourteen year-old girl with cerebral palsy, who wasn’t about to complete a transaction online, so needed to go into a shop front. The counter was too high, as she was in a wheelchair. She wasn’t allowed to sign the documentation on her lap — she had to be up at the counter — so her mum had to lift her up to sign the necessary documentation. But because of her condition, she struggled to sign the documentation.

Anyway, they got the job done, but you can just imagine how that must have been for that fourteen year-old girl — how embarrassing, disrespectful and difficult. So there’s a real human element when we think about what digital transformation means. Where’s the opportunity?

There’s another story. A young, single mum with a few kids really needing to sign up to benefits. She has to go into a shop front but she can’t because she’s holding down two jobs, and the only way she can really interact and find the time to interact is through a mobile device when’s she’s in transit on a train.

So I share those stories with you, not to be dramatic, but to say that when we think about digital transformation and we think about customer centricity, I think it’s really about having empathy, doing your discovery work, and walking in the shoes of your customers.

We do a lot of research and one of the key things that has come out of recent research is that you don’t know what you don’t know, and I think the danger always is we assume we know, that our knowledge and the knowledge we carry is current. But, that’s not always the case, because we don’t always represent the majority of our customers.

Not all customers have a mobile phone, not all customers have an email address. In fact, what we do know is that a lot of migrant families share a phone. The point is to do your discovery work and really understand what the business problem is and what outcome you are trying to achieve here, making sure that manifests itself in your design thinking.

Data — a lot gets said about data. I certainly know in my time at NAB we were always trying to solve the big data question, thinking about customer file, data quality and ‘who’s the data owner?’ All those big questions. Data is a key enabler or inhibitor of digital transformation, depending on how you look at it.

The government recently released its productivity commission report around data. In terms of data sharing, it showed that Australia lags behind many Western countries in the world. There are a number of barriers to data in the context of government.

We know in a social sense we’re pretty comfortable having all our information out in the public domain or most people are, but when it comes to government there’s often a trust issue. We do know that individuals and businesses want to know what their data is being used for, how it’s being stored, and to what end and how it’ll benefit them. So there’s clearly a trust issue that has to be solved.

There’s a number of legacy issues that have to be solved in the context of government as well. Some of the legacy issues around technology will be very familiar in terms of your industry. Data has been accumulated over many, many years, and different formats and stored in different ways. How do you ultimately end up with one version of the truth?

Another of the legacy issues that we are dealing is that there are over five hundred secrecy provisions around what data can be shared with whom and how.

There are a lot of myths around data as well. What you can and can’t do. So, lots of work to be done in that space.

The third one is around culture. There is this natural risk aversion that I have found presents itself in government. An all-or-nothing type approach, in relation to risk in certain areas.

So what about the government, and what’s the task ahead? Here are some statistics that you might be interested in: there are 811 million transactions per year across all government websites, about 40% of those will require some form of physical interaction or involvement. A significant amount of that 811 million are physical-related transactions.

There are over 44 million unique pages of web content on federal government sites, and about 1200 federal government websites. So you can imagine that if you’re trying to deal with government and you want to find out basic information and get things done, it’s not always easy.

An example is my youngest daughter who got a job recently and asked me what the minimum wage was because she thought she was getting ripped off. I don’t know what it is so I said, ‘well you go on and you have a look at the website and see if you can find the information.’ She got there in the end but it was a lot of clicks and running around, and when she did find the correct website, actually understanding what she was being told was quite difficult. So work to be done.

I caught up with Adobe the other day. For their whole strategies around content and data, they did some research and found, not surprisingly — particularly in the sector I know really well, financial services — you can really drive down your costs by a factor of up to 50 times in terms of moving from a physical channel down to a digital-only channel. So there are huge economic benefits if you choose to go after them.

Boston Consulting did a recent bit of research and found in the Australian survey that about 40% of them had difficulty trying to get the information they needed from federal government websites, to understand what it is they needed to do, if they were looking for signing up for benefits, or getting a Medicare card etc.

That being said, there’s lots of good stuff that does happen, and unfortunately this is where politics gets in the way of reporting progress.

myGov, which is a key government platform, it has almost 11 million registered users. And, in any given day, and there’s an average of 265,000 using myGov. There’s a very clear roadmap of future enhancements to be made to myGov. There are ten federal agencies that are linked to that platform.

myTax. I know there’s been a noise around myTax and outages, and it’s great to see Amanda Murray-Johnson in the audience. Amanda was my Comms advisor when I was running technology at NAB and we had a major outage. It went on for days and was a lot worse than what the tax department had had.

You can do a lot more now in terms of your tax online. They’re really thinking about data and the important role it plays, and pre-populating things.

myHealth. This is an important federal government initiative where your health records are lodged — one version of the the truth that your practitioners can access. There are currently around 5 million people that are signed up to that, and that actually saves lives. In a small percentages of cases where people actually die, or become very ill, it’s because of misdiagnosis as a result of poor record-keeping. There is great opportunity and benefit to having your health records stored and one version of the truth.

And then immigration, for those of you that fly often — SmartGates. The fact that the green departure card has been abolished, and soon to come the yellow arrival card as well. But, they’re also using data and analytics as they think about how they scrutinise goods being imported into Australian and taking a risk-based approach, depending on who the exporter is, who’s importing it, where it’s coming from, and depending on what level of analysis they undertake in terms of the container and document scrutiny.

One thing we do need to solve for is Digital Identity. It’s not the panacea to everything, but it’s important. In my mind, one of the biggest things that is inhibiting federal government, and state and local government, and private industry as well, is enabling customers to do everything digitally.

That ability to prove who you are once, and then as you deal with that organisation over many, many years, you can have your identity authenticated. You don’t have to go through this process of constantly getting out your birth certificate, your passport, having it validated over and over. I found it quite ironic in joining the federal government; I had to prove to them that my passport was valid.

There is huge opportunity both for government and private sector. Numbers have been thrown in terms of what it would mean for the economy, but you’re talking billions and billions of dollars, in terms of real productivity savings, time spent and improved customer outcome.

I think fundamentally it comes down to culture. You can have all the technology in the world, the best and the brightest people in the world, people that work out the policy changes that need to happen, the changes to your risk appetite, the changes to your work practice and redesigning processes — but the question is, do you care enough about it? You talk about customer centricity, but do you care enough about it to affect the change? And from personal experience, unless it starts at the very top of an organisation, at the chief executives and the board, and the senior management team in the way they role model, the way they turn up day-in and day-out, have real empathy and can talk with credibility about what their customers experience with their organisation because they’ve tried it themselves. If you don’t have that culture and orientation starting at the very top, then I think you’ll always struggle.

Image credit CEDA 2017

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