Public sector leaders grappling with how to make their tech estate deliver best-in-class customer conversations and intelligent process automation now have a winning solution at their disposal.
After many years of delivering powerful improvements to customer experience on clients’ infrastructure, sector leader Smart Communications™ has revealed its cloud-based application suite has cleared one of the federal government’s toughest and strictest security tests.
IRAP gives extra assurance
Known as the Information Security Registered Assessors Program (dubbed IRAP for short), the assessment, carefully overseen by the Australian Signals Directorate (ASD), works as a security trust mark for government purchasers of cloud-based software and compute capacity.
It’s no secret that Australian government cloud security standards and accreditation have evolved significantly over recent years in response to the threat environment. Throughout this evolution, the IRAP scheme has remained a critical element of agency cyber assurance by testing products to ensure they meet standards.
When the industry’s leading supplier of proven and popular on-premises solutions gets the tick to deliver from the cloud in Australia, there’s real opportunity for agencies to make big and rapid gains in productivity, cost efficiency, customer satisfaction, resilience – and security.
Here’s why it counts, big time.
Collapse barriers, create synergies
Almost every senior public servant has a Budget Estimates war story of a legacy system that refused to die and then held-back modernisation, innovation – and often measurable outcomes as a result.
Complexities pile-up, dates drift and change, management consultants start sniffing around for major project revenue.
It’s true, some systems projects are so tectonic they take years to plan, fund and execute. But it’s also just as true that cloud-based software, storage, processing and development allow agencies to experiment and test new ideas with speed and scale like never before.
“This is where real innovation and efficiency take root, because big improvements can be made quickly and with substantive savings built in,” says Smart Communications’ Australian country chief Nick Smith of the company’s cloud-powered Software-as-a-Service suite.
“We know that an environment with a low internal IT overhead appeals to agency executives,” Smith adds.
“When you can use more customer contact channels with better effect, you move much quicker in terms of transformation. You’re able to reduce often huge recurring costs like print, postage, mail houses. Most importantly, you’re able to scale and deliver critical information at speed.
Cloud rises from choice to necessity
When the public sector was forced to pivot because of the COVID-19 pandemic, managers and minions alike, learned that a distributed, connected and agile workplace had been rudely shunted from being a lofty goal to a sheer necessity.
But what also became clear was the contrast in performance between systems and processes that were tethered to a location rather than being delivered natively from the cloud.
Often systems living ‘on-prem’ could be made accessible remotely; it’s just that nobody really planned for all of the agency stampeding onto the VPN, a constrained pipe and finite server capacity with limited headroom.
Use cases show the way
Smith says there are great examples of Smart Communications’ cloud customers in heavily regulated industries that government can draw on, especially when major policy initiatives traverse public and private sectors.
One case in point was the government’s decision to grant some people emergency access to their superannuation savings.
“Some of our superannuation clients were able to stand up the application process and the payment process in a matter of days because they were already using our systems in the cloud,” Smith says.
“That sort of agility, for government, is something that’s often been very challenging to do until today. Smart Communications’ IRAP assessment and accreditation is a game changer.”
Whose cloud is it, anyway?
In terms of what secure cloud specifics look like for Smart Communications’ suite of solutions now available to Australian government agencies and organisations, the company’s applications are delivered as multi-tenant Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) living inside Amazon Web Services’ (AWS) ASD-certified Australian data centres that are rated to ‘Protected’ level in terms of security classification (with commensurate physical security hardening rated by ASIO).
In technical terms, the cloud instance is a ‘bare metal’ install giving Smart Communications full control over security and access, a key element of gaining IRAP accreditation.
The use of the toughest federal information and cyber security standards means that state agencies, as well as local governments with strong cyber protection requirements are easily able to plug-and-play these solutions straight out of the box.
That means agencies and their customer experience leaders can start road testing their ideas for improvement and innovation immediately and with minimum cost.
“It allows organisations to provide better citizen services at a lower cost at a faster speed. For those agencies that want to take advantage, it will just transform citizen services,” Smith says.
Get and grow satisfaction
In terms of compelling reasons to start investigating what Smart Communications’ cloud suite can achieve for government agencies, Smith is adamant the core proposition is well over and above merely shedding some infrastructure and increasing accessibility, factors that are appealing on their own.
When speed, scale and simplicity combine, there’s a nice multiplier effect in terms of operational performance that is usually already measured with well understood metrics by customer facing organisations.
Smith observes that cloud customers are not only able to rise to new challenges and opportunities faster and more proficiently, they also become more creative problem solvers because they know they can afford to experiment and find what works best across varying channels.
“It means the conversations with customers – whether it’s through a contact centre, chat, email or text message – become about actually solving a problem or delivering the right service rather about finding the right puzzle pieces for a process.
“That’s very powerful and enabling. It builds organisational confidence through proficiency.”
Smith says the ‘customer conversation’ sphere, which cuts across government and commerce, is especially well-placed to catch some cloud performance uplift, with business customers already validating many of the lessons that can be applied to government.
Scaling and scoring success
As many public servants will know, governments are increasingly utilising established metrics from the business world to benchmark their own organisational performance and the perceptions of citizens and stakeholders.
Large customer facing agencies, especially those which collect revenue, or process regulated transactions, are increasingly measuring customer satisfaction with interactions and conversations based on ease, intuition and simplicity.
Smith says Smart Communications customers moving to cloud-based delivery commonly see customer satisfaction levels rise between 20 percent to 40 percent, depending on the use cases.
“We see NPS (net promoter score) going up on the customer side when they asked clients ‘have you got what you want first time?’,” Smith says.
“That goes up proportionately because customers are getting the right information at the right time in the channel of their choice.”
But the magic behind the satisfaction lift is the fact customers with a low IT footprint can test their service ideas and changes quickly, thoroughly and efficiently because of cloud’s scalability.
That same scalability elastically provisions extra headroom when demand surges hit, letting organisations ride out big waves rather than be flattened by them.
“We know up-time is as critical as user friendliness,” Smith says. “With Smart Communications IRAP assessment, security gets a big lift too. We’re thrilled to remove another barrier to excellence in government service delivery.”