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Tax Office plans internal Facebook for innovation, collaboration

“Chris Jordan liked your post” pops up to greet a tax official as they log on to their computer in the morning, but they’re not worried the boss has finally found their Facebook profile. They’re a bit excited, in fact; their bright suggestion for how the agency could work smarter is causing a stir all over the organisation.

This scenario could play out some time in the not-too-distant future. The Australian Taxation Office is looking to upgrade its agency-wide ideas management system, creating a new version that sounds something like an internal social network for innovation and collaboration.

The agency first established its own modern digital answer to the old staff suggestion box in 2012 and called the system ATO Innovation. Since then it has steadily attracted over 17,000 ideas — 4000 in its first year of operation — from more than 5000 employees.

The ATO now wants to put in place a new second-generation ideas platform, where staff will have personal profiles and be able to like and comment on each other’s ideas, similar to networking sites like LinkedIn and Facebook.

Work on the project is planned to begin by July 4, according to a request for information listed on AusTender which includes a detailed statement of requirements.

The agency wants a system that allows the creation of user profiles, with mandatory details furnished from existing employee data and the option of adding more. The network will be able to host user groups with various access controls.

The new platform will allow multiple users to jointly submit ideas, and draft ideas to be saved and worked on later before being formally submitted. A high quality search function and a system of keywords or tags will be an important feature — not just for finding things of interest, but also to allow users to subscribe to alerts on their favourite topics.

“Ideas of a similar nature” will be able to be linked together and the ATO also wants the system to include a way of alerting users that their new submission might be a duplicate. The brainstorming platform will be able to link ideas to the agency’s strategic goals and support “the creation of idea campaigns with multiple campaigns able to be run concurrently”.

Each idea will have a “status” in the system and the relevant users will be notified when it changes, and when someone likes it or comments. The most popular and promising suggestions will be assigned an idea manager. According to the statement:

“This person will perform a range of
 tasks on behalf of the submitter e.g. speak with subject matter experts. The Idea Manager can record the outcomes of their work against the idea.”

An idea will have to reach a threshold level of support — the documents suggests this could be measured by how many likes it gets — before it is assigned a manager.

Unpopular “dormant” ideas will probably be removed from the system — lest they cause embarrassment for the individual author, not to mention clutter. But what if someone wants to submit an unpopular idea again? These issues will still have to be managed.

The ATO says it would be “highly desirable” for the new platform to involve some form of gamification and elements of reward and recognition.

Author Bio

Stephen Easton

Stephen Easton is a journalist at The Mandarin based in Canberra. He's previously reported for Canberra CityNews and worked on industry titles for The Intermedia Group.