In July this year, Australians about to travel overseas experienced a small but seismic shift in the way government deals with them, their everyday lives and their personal data.
After decades of fumbling around international airport terminals looking for a pen to manually ink down their passport and destination details – the ones already held on multiple government and aviation computer systems – a little piece of paper finally disappeared for good.
Quietly, without anxiety, passenger departure cards which only the most seasoned travellers ever got right the first time were finally junked as multiple government agencies and businesses automated a once highly manual paper process.
Keep transformation real: make innovation deliver
We often think of innovation and digital transformation in terms of big bang projects. In reality it’s usually a series of smaller incremental steps which remove annoying friction points and process bottlenecks that get in the way of what everyday people want to do.
For anyone working in government, transformation can sometimes seem like a thankless achievement. Especially when customers and stakeholders quickly embrace quicker, smarter and more efficient ways of doing things … only to take hard-won improvements for granted.
That doesn’t mean it shouldn’t happen. If anything this tells us why it must continue.
But let’s face it – there have been some salutary lessons along the way. In today’s public sector, it’s the test of how organisations overcome hurdles, navigate and pitfalls and turn challenges into opportunities that makes the difference.
That’s why national institutions like Australia Post are doubling down on efforts to help government transform and making the biggest commitment to date to make Australia’s digitisation as inclusive, productive and socially and economically beneficial as possible.
One size doesn’t fit all
Australia Post’s digital journey hasn’t been an easy one. It was ultimately forged from necessity. The paper world rapidly digitised and the organisation faced external structural challenges beyond its control.
Yet as letter volumes rapidly diminished, strategic decisions were made to re-foot the enterprise by going back to first principles and determining what Australia Post actually provided to the community.
Put simply, this was highly trusted services available to all Australians across a gamut of communications, transactional and logistical services.
It’s a 200-year journey replete with lessons, acumen Australia Post now brings to the table to help both public and private sectors through its Enterprise and Government division that offers a full suite of services ranging from strategic advice to transactional services and business process design and delivery.
“As we look at our corporate and government customers, one of the key priorities for them is to be able to chart a future for their organisation,” says Andrew Walduck, Australia Post’s Executive General Manager, Trusted eCommerce Services and Group Chief Digital Officer. Plotting that path, he says, requires both taking advantage of “what the digital age presents” but also evolving the parts of an organisation “that are disrupted by it.”
Fit for purpose, fit for the future
Increasingly this has meant providing convenient and friendly ‘one-stop-shop’ services for government and business, whether it’s passport applications, document lodgement for the Australia Taxation Office, bill payments, obtaining police checks for employers or motor registry renewals.Australia Post was a conscious early adopter of the ‘no wrong door‘ customer service philosophy…
Importantly Australia Post was a conscious early adopter of the ‘no wrong door‘ customer service philosophy that used an omnichannel approach – physical and digital – that has empowered its customers to re-platform on digital while not leaving people behind.
“We have this beautiful ability to leverage both the physical contact we have with our customers as well as leading digital interactions [so] we can truly help an organisation to chart its course of building on what its digital aspirations are,” Walduck says.
If you think about the public friction sometimes generated by customers challenged by rapid transformation hurdles, it’s a prudent and practical approach.
Talk honestly about what transformation is …
While the public and customers of government gladly embrace the convenience of more distributed and efficient services, what’s less visible is the degree of business process improvement that’s happening behind the counter and within the client base of Australia Post’s Enterprise and Government division.
This is where Australia Post’s well of firsthand knowledge runs deep. What a faster, simpler customer interaction looks and feels like and how it’s put into action. How to make staff on the frontline of change invested and empowered to take on new challenges and grow. Determining what success is, isn’t … or what it will look like in the future, not just now.
Because Australia Post has seen its own business change significantly, those lessons aren’t just from a trending management methodology — they’re real, authentic and actionable in a distinctly Australian context.
… and isn’t
Put plainly, it’s the walk not the talk.
Australia Post has moved decisively to take leadership in delivering evolving capabilities and technologies to government, business and consumers would otherwise take longer to mature if it wasn’t a participant.
Nowhere is this more evident than the creation of a national, cross sector digital identity platform that’s not just opt-in but built on strong and best practice privacy principles that embed robust and scalable security as well as convenience and efficiency.
“We have a great opportunity to unlock the digital potential in so many organisations, but first they need to overcome the barrier of being able to prove an individual is who they say they are when they transact online,” explains Walduck. “A single, digital identity will enable all of that to happen.”
Digital identity, digital economy and digital government
A decade ago MIT digital pioneer Michael Schrage observed that real innovation wasn’t what ‘innovators’ did, it was what customers ultimately adopted.Australia Post has been deliberately seeking a diversity of views, analysis and first-hand experiences…
That’s still true today as both government and business look for a convenient and secure multi-purpose key that unlocks appropriate access to services and transactions on terms that are mutually compatible for consumers and providers organisations alike.
The biggest challenge that Australia Post’s recently launched Digital iD™ offering addresses, is the high degree of what Walduck refers to as “identity friction” where authentication of validation challenges get in the way of an outcome.
Common concerns, individual solutions
The most common problem for government and business alike to date has been that most solutions are service of sector specific, replicating clunky silos that require multiple log-ins and passwords.
A pertinent consideration is that consumers aren’t always comfortable with identity requirements perceived as being foisted upon them – a key reason why Australia Post adopted an opt-in model of deployment.
Those concerns addressed up-front, what Digital iD™ offers is not only safe, trusted and user controlled custody of identity credentials but a platform for allowing Australians to embrace the digital age on their own terms at a speed and scale that they are inherently comfortable with.
In an era when institutional trust and motivation is increasingly questioned by the public and media, it means that there’s a perceptible level of assurance.
Trust is earned, not bought
Equally importantly, Australia Post’s trusted position within government means it can interoperate and feed into public sector as well as private enterprise schemes with consumer data held safely onshore.
In the near future this will translate to far more ‘joined up’ services for consumers between key sectors that necessarily intersect with government – like financial services and tax, welfare and health providers and education, transport and community services.
Whether it’s FinTech, RegTech, PropTech or getting an electronic key issued to your phone to unlock an office door or Airbnb, the common element of trust remains a foundation that must be demonstrated through sustained delivery rather than merely promised.
Empowering transformation with evidence
For public sector leaders – federal, state or local – one of the most frequent prerequisites before formulating a transformation or change agenda is referencing an evidence base or mature discussion of ideas.
A real discussion is needed where ideas and examples can be illustrated, contrasted and contested to arrive at an informed position. There’s a lot more to stimulating genuine civil discourse than popping off a pre-approved sponsored Tweet or corporate Instagram update from a conference.
For the last few years, Australia Post has been deliberately seeking a diversity of views, analysis and first-hand experiences to document how Australian society, business and polity is experiencing and living change as it occurs.
A diversity of voices
Sometimes its foundational research documents like the comprehensive analysis and economic evaluation of digital identity published earlier this year.
Equally it can be real and pertinent case studies that act as sturdy and honest pathfinders rather than formulaic and saccharine testimonials, like the effectiveness of police records checks and payments processing – unlikely to be found in a newspaper or tech media hero piece.
Sometimes it requires giving external storytellers sufficient licence to put contemporary ideas and experiences into their own words to oxygenate productive and candid discussion rather than assuming a singular path will lead to the right place.
The bottom line is that Australia Post is investing not only in its own transformation, but that of the nation as a whole: postcode, digital identity or whatever comes next.