Service NSW used 'bifocal' strategy to drive culture shift

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Service NSW used 'bifocal' strategy to drive culture shift

Start ugly.

Service NSW's former boss Rachna Gandhi has outlined the "bifocal" strategy the one-stop shop agency used to transform the way citizens interacted with the state government.

Gandhi told the Myriad festival in Brisbane last week that the agency's establishment was a case study for other transformation projects.

Her message was to stop aiming for perfection out of the gate and instead just get started on your transformation program even if it’s a bit ugly.

Gandhi said that, in her experience, organisations “struggled to see near and far at the same time”.

She advocated for a “bifocal” strategy where organisations could reap the immediate benefits of higher stakeholder engagement, and broader cultural and service transformation over the longer term.

“Can you see near and far as an incumbent at same time? Organisations … are either very good at the near term or the long term,” Gandhi - who left the post last October to lead Suncorp's customer strategy, design and innovation - said.

“One of the reasons we were able to pull off that significant transformation at [Service NSW] successfully is we only had six months.

“The ability to say, 'we’ll solve for the short term so we can open doors even if that means … sticky-taped solutions while keeping eye on the future' was what made Service NSW a sustainable organisation.”

Service NSW was a complex program started in 2012 that transformed how NSW Government served citizens and businesses. 

In its first tranche, 19 one-stop shops opened in the 12 months to May 2014 – about one every three weeks.

It resulted in a significant increase in staff and citizen satisfaction and engagement, with a rise in digital transactions from 25 percent to 56 percent at its conclusion.

The Service NSW rollout ultimately saw more than 400 shopfronts and 102 contact centres for different agencies collapsed into 110 retail points and a single call centre.

In addition to using a "bifocal" strategy, Gandhi also employed a “digital by design” approach.

Coupled to a single app, identity platform, digital payments platform and website, the benefits in streamlining bureaucracy greatly reduced complexity for the state and citizens.

“The NSW Government had tried to simplify government services twice before and failed … so we had to look at it and say, ‘how do we turn it on its head … how do you reframe this problem?’ This is about radically doing something different.

“We reframed using a simple concept in digital - a single view of customer - but what if we took the approach of a citizen’s single view of government?”

This reshaped the approach to physical shopfronts, technology deployed, business processes and digital engagement, she said.

“The customer could see government whenever they logged in [and] have one single place to go for all sorts of information.

“That reframing would not have come from the customer; if we waited for customers to tell us what to do, we would have improved individual lines of government but we had to look at how” to disrupt ourselves internally, she said.

“[Importantly], we never approached digital as [the] challenge; we always looked at digital as a way of working … not that one channel interface to the customer.”

Gandhi also said the agency was designed around data use.

“In 2013, we knew the importance of data, so we architected the business so that fresh data was at heart of what we did," she said.

"We measured everything that was meaningful, and we measured it transparently [such as] wait times and satisfaction scores – fundamentally, that shifts your culture to how you’re thinking about the customer.”

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