ACMA ICT reform on track, root-and-branch review looms

By Stephen Easton

Monday November 16, 2015

As his 10-year term draws to an end with major reform looming, Australian Communications and Media Authority chair Chris Chapman is proud of the regulator he will soon leave in a state of flux, much like the industry it oversees.

Chris Chapman
Chris Chapman

In Chapman’s view, the past decade has passed “essentially without material blemish” to ACMA’s record, and he says its efforts to lead the way in public sector ICT innovation over the second half of that decade are on track.

He said in a recent speech: “The facts essentially speak for themselves: that the ACMA has delivered a diverse and accomplished decade of work.”

The overall purpose of the ICT transformation project has a familiar ring: “… to create a better customer experience for industry, consumers and citizens, with a firm emphasis on user control through appropriate levels of self-service.”

The third phase is now underway and expected to run into 2018. Last week, Chapman noted:

“This wave is focused on smart process and data; getting maximum returns on investment from our new systems; and prioritising information management and data transparency, while supporting migration to cloud-based technology infrastructure and providing a greater emphasis on user training.

“Earlier this year, the ACMA worked with Nihilent, a global consulting and solutions integration company, to comprehensively review our custom business analysis and project management methodology, with careful benchmarking against successful global organisations and proven practices responsive to the ACMA’s unique needs.”

In the first of the three phases, ACMA focused on replacing outdated infrastructure between 2010 and 2012. It then moved on to major business projects and core systems. For the media regulator, that meant a new automated numbering allocation and administration system, a better online portal for spectrum licensing, and improvements to the Do Not Call Register that began with contracting a new provider.

Part of the second tranche was opening a central customer service centre for the agency’s Communications Infrastructure division in March 2014, expanding it throughout this year to handle calls and emails for its Content, Consumer and Citizen Division as well. That work should be done by the end of this month.

Chapman told the recent CommsDay conference the project had “significantly reduced” the number of different ACMA communications channels from nearly 120, and that the regulator would be able to go into 2016 with “all customer contact … delivered through our five centralised channels of phone, email, fax, web-forms and, of course, snail-mail”:

“My intent is that the centralised customer service delivery model adopted by the ACMA will become considered as best practice within government. In any event, it is already reducing costs through economies of scale.”

Chapman ticked off seven benefits of the centralised customer service model:

  • Improved accessibility for citizens, customers and transactors;
  • Improved quality and consistency of response for these groups;
  • Ease in recording and reporting contacts;
  • Visibility of customer contact across the organisation;
  • Capacity to set and manage a customer service standard that is consistent across the different ACMA business areas;
  • Ability to add (and subtract) business areas to the arrangement; and
  • More efficient and effective use of staff resources.

In the last of his 10 years at the head of the ACMA board table, Chapman welcomes the major review now being conducted by the Department of Communications and the Arts with help from an expert advisory panel. He said in his speech: “[The review] represents an historic opportunity, coincident with a decade of operation for the agency, to look at the regulatory framework and the role of the regulator in it, and importantly at the future of both.”

Chapman said he accepted it was normal that most submissions to the departmental review from stakeholders focused on their own narrow interests or made assertions based on evidence that “seems a little thin” at times. But he was still frustrated and disappointed that few submissions echoed what the organisation itself has been saying about its own need to evolve and adapt to rapid and radical change:

“… My frustration is that the views of stakeholders who chose to respond often do not seem to share or embrace the opportunity I discern in the review, for us (being, collectively, government policy makers, industry players, citizens, consumers and the independent regulators) to understand the shape of public interest outcomes necessary in contemporary media and communications; to determine the appropriate framework to deliver these outcomes; and to then devise a best-practice institutional design to deliver fit-for-purpose regulatory practice in that space.”

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