Empowered citizens and the government challenge

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Tom Burton: Welcome to the Mandarin and today we’re going to talk about the issue of public leadership in the digital era. And we’re discussing that topic with Kerry Purcell, the Managing Director for IBM Australia and New Zealand.

With Kerry we are going to be exploring these challenges and what it means for leaders in the public sector — secretaries, director generals, senior executives — having to really think through the management of the digital change process and the opportunities that come with it.

Welcome Kerry.

Kerry, you have written recently about the concept of citizen centricity, customer centricity, why is it so important in this era of digital?

Kerry Purcell: So firstly, thanks for the opportunity to talk Tom. It’s great to be here. The data explosion which we all talk about so much is really I think driving the need from the consumer side, from the citizen side, to search for more information and have it in one place. And that data explosion is I think at the heart of what is driving this citizen centricity. Just as it is for you as a consumer and the private sector, as a citizen you are demanding much more information, and it’s much more accessible than it ever was before. But sorting through that is still the ongoing challenge for every federal and state government agency around the world.
Australia, I think, is at the forefront of a lot of this and is really pushing the boundaries, but I think that’s the key driver.

Tom: The concept of citizens in government often means that we have agencies like policy agencies, regulators, and then we have service agencies that are looking quite at customers. Different approaches?

Kerry: Absolutely. So I think it’s just that with our business we have a strategy group, we have a compliance and regulatory group but then we have a go-to market team, the ones who engage with citizens and clients directly. It’s the same analogy really. And it is all about building a capability. Whether you’re in a regulatory driven agency or the one that’s, you know, compliance and strategy, whether you are at the sharp end dealing with citizens on a daily basis, it’s about building a common set of principles and capabilities and guidelines that say “Actually this is how we want to build the single citizen experience.”

Tom: And it’s that sort of experience that then drives the rest of the change program is it?

Kerry: Yes, absolutely. So we view it as quite simply as there are systems of engagements, so how government agencies engage with the citizens. There are systems record, how you capture that data, and then there are systems of insight and they are the three major components that we all need to look at when we’re deciding on strategy or the regulatory environment or whether how technically we engage with those citizens. So everyone is now much more focused on these systems of engagements.
What are the systems of insight? What analytically can we draw to better improve that citizen experience? Just as it is for a consumer, for you and I in our day to day life, whether with our bank or insurance company, we want to have a personalised experience when we go. We often don’t go to our bank anymore but when we’re online or offline you want to personalize the engagement, we want them to understand all the different touchpoints that we have within as a bank, an insurance company, an airline and we want that to extend to our families and to other stakeholder groups, that ecosystem.

Tom: And this empowered citizen concept, what do you mean by that?

Kerry: Well that really, just as the empowered consumer and the empowered citizen, as a business and as a government agency or as IBM or as any other institute, we all have to figure out how do we provide them with the right tools to make the right decisions at the right time? And of course technology plays a much bigger part in that equation than it ever has before. It’s amazing to see what technology is enabling. And it’s not just obviously just IBM technology, it’s the whole industry that is doing some amazing things to really empower a citizen to say actually “When I make a choice of…” for example I’m receiving housing benefits or social welfare benefits, when I want to buy something in that ecosystem, I have options. And I can go to one spot and I can compare accurately and quickly the best option that suits me.
Probably even 2-3-4 years ago, that wasn’t there.

Tom: Right and it’s that experience in, if you like the more commercial area that people are expecting with government these days.

Kerry: Yeah. And they should, I think on a federal and a state level, Australia is really pushing that to really catch up to that significant transformation. We see it in all industries, whether it be in the banking insurance or industrial, but more and more we see increasing pressure coming into all the government agencies.

Watch the full video series.

Finding sand in water: challenge of getting real insights from data

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Tom: Kerry what makes you so excited by the data and analytics place in government?

Kerry: There is so much data out there and breaking that what we call… so we see data as the next natural resource, but it is like a natural resource. It is like sand, water, and big desserts and finding the gems and the natural resources and extracting them is the most exciting bit for us.

Also technology has enabled us to do things and this is changing in such a rapid rate. So whether it’s more Moore’s law, any law in our industry, it is driving us to new places that we’ve never thought we’d get to. Even 12 months go, 24 months go, the advances we are all making, not just IBM, but everyone is making, in this space is huge.

So the challenge for us all is we have what we call structured data and unstructured data. So if you say “Okay this is a natural resource. There’s a lot of sand, there’s a lot of water out there, how do we work it?” We go “Okay we’ve got structured data, so every government agency has reporting systems and it captures information in a logical way.” That’s cool, that’s fine. But there is so much happening in the unstructured data space.

What do I mean by unstructured data? I mean whether it’s tweets, blogs, things that are on public records, stuff that is just floating out there, that’s where there is tremendous opportunity to draw insights. And it’s not just about drawing insights for the sake of drawing insights, it’s about drawing actionable insights.

Tom: And am I right that these tools now, a couple years ago you probably needed a whole room of data scientists to do this stuff, but what’s happened with the technology?

Kerry: The technology has really obviously advanced significantly. We do still have a number of data scientists, but on the client side or the government agency side, whereas before they would have said “Okay, we go scratching our head. We need to hire a bunch of smart people, we need to have data scientists in their own operations, we need to buy a particular software.”

And now it comes back to the same point before.Their looking for an integrated solution, they want a business solution, so we have to show up with an integrated business solution. So we have integrated the hardware, the software, any telecommunication requirements, working with partners on the content with our own data scientists saying “Here’s a solution to your particular opportunity or particular problem.”

Tom: So you’re a classic policy analyst who works in central agencies could be using these tools to really gain insights today?

Kerry: From their desktop, that’s right. So then again for us, we’re quite a strong consulting group, taking those consultants and actually let’s provide you with a dashboard that can be on your device, that can be on your desktop, that can be wherever you want it to be, that just gives you the information you need.

So again it just comes back to the sand and the water saying, where are the gems and the resources that you want to pull out that you can actually use. Summarising those into “here’s what it looks like, please make your call, make a decision around this on an informed basis, much faster than you were able to before and much more accurately”.

How self-learning computing changes government decision making

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Tom: Kerry this question or area of cognitive computing,  I think IBM Watson is your product or solution in that space, what is that and how do agencies think about self-learning cognitive computing?

Kerry: Look I’m going to try to keep it as simple as possible. Watson is as you say it has cognitive computing capabilities. It’s computers that learn. So the more you feed it, the smarter it gets. So the medical institutes, the institutions we’re working with using are feeding more and more data into Watson to allow them to make smarter decisions, more accurately, and at a much faster rate than they were ever been able to do before.

So we’ve talked about here in Australia — it’s public — with Boarder Protection, we’re working with Boarder Protection on trialing, (now) we’re moving from trial basis to a more formal engagement around identifying potential threats and potential areas of risk for Australia Border Protection. Drawing insights again from what we call this unstructured data, from stuff that’s just out there floating around.

Tom: And the point being all done in relatively real time?

Kerry: Absolutely.

Tom: Before you would have to truck it off to somewhere, analyze it, bring it back.

Kerry: It would have taken months and in some cases years to draw the same level of insights. So the speed and then the accuracy, to enable people to make more informed decisions on what we call and we’re very passionate about, the actionable insights. So it’s not just stuff that, it will get a lot of data. So what is the stuff that we’re going to go and action that will deliver a better outcome for Australian citizens at a federal or a state level.

Tom: And I think for agencies, the insights are very powerful tools now. It allows them to have these many touchpoints with their citizens and be able to follow that in real time and as you say, get real insight to be able to manage that better on behalf of the citizens and consumers so their experience is better.

Solving citizen problems in Australia’s federation

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Tom: The challenge of the citizen dealing with all these agencies, federal, state, local, how does government start to approach that problem? A problem if you’re like of one government.

Kerry: It is clearly a complex problem to solve, but one that we all have to work hard at solving. Inevitably the citizens are really demanding it and that’s going to only increase. The way that we would look at it is being able to, just as IBM has partnered with Apple, Twitter, Facebook and many other people in our industry, there’s going to be increasing pressure for the government agencies at a federal and obviously a state level (to partner) and this is not unique to Australia. But I think Australia really pushing the boundaries here.

That’s why I really love coming back to Australia from Japan. You see the drive in the public sector and in the private sector for not only earlier adaption technology, but for change. So there’s a strong appetite for change. I can see at a federal and at a state level and they all have particular programs in place. So I think the Digital Transmission Office is going to be pivotal, but then tying that into the initiatives by all of the state is going to be key.

Listing to the citizens — I know they’re all doing that — accelerating that listing and then partnering with each other and with people, obviously not only with IBM, but people from the technology sector.

All we do is really, we are the enabler. We can give tools and provide business solutions that will accelerate this one citizen and the experience. So there’s no real secret formula.

Tom: The issue we all know, we all live with it each day, is we deal with government on all the different levels but essentially we want just the service. We don’t really care whether its state or federal or local. Some people do, but as an observation for citizens, they just want a unified experience.

Kerry: They do. And we’ve got examples with Singapore Transport Authority, examples with obviously in Japan, we’re trying to build that experience for the age care with the Japan Post and Apple alliance and many other examples, with healthcare space we’re working globally with a number in the US and other parts of the world, driving to a single view from citizen out back into government.

The collaboration and the teamwork we see is one thing that’s going to make this work. It’s probably two things: one is getting the design right, and then the collaboration and the teamwork across the agencies and across the private sector. And particularly, not only obviously IBM but the technology community. I think we’ve all got a lot to contribute to this, to cracking this nut. And this will, I’m sure, will just intensify because the citizens are saying “I’ve got a family. I’ve got a whole ecosystem that I have to look after. I need one view and one point of engagement.”

Lessons about successful transformation

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Tom: Just talking then about the lessons or learnings from the commercial world, we’ve seen big companies like Telstra, Westpac and others really make this transformation journey, from your own observations what are the learnings that we can pull from that back to government? What can government leaders learn from those environments?

Kerry: I think there are two or three things. One is it has to be led from the top, and we’ve seen that in Australian blue chip companies. We see it in some government agencies, and so having a champion at the top is probably one critical ingredient.

The other ingredient is building an environment that enables, in a more open way both the government agencies to work together and work with the private sector, will be the second thing. So building an open environment, which I think the Digital Transmission Office, working in collaboration with the state initiative is already underway. That will be a catalyst to that.

The third one is really the technology enablement. Demanding solutions rather than point products and having this fragmented, slice and dice solutions, give me one solution to take that addresses healthcare and I mean the big H of healthcare, social services, department of health or anything to do with medical health claims for example. Building those ecosystems that will have clear, clearly designed and well thought out business solutions.

Tom: So don’t see digital just as a website, but see it much more as an industrial change exercise.”

Kerry: Yeah, that scalable, that can address the scope across states and across federal, but can scale to the Australian population.

Tom: Finally, Kerry we’ve got a lot of agencies well advanced but we got a long list to still study hard in that journey. Have you got any tips or observations for agencies that are starting on this journey, how can they accelerate their progress into the space?

Kerry: Well I think the first thing to do is look at your strategy around systems of engagement. How are you engaging with citizens today? And then figuring out what is the road map, this comes back to the design thinking. What is the road map that gets me to this outcome? Where are you today? Just as we all do with in our own business, where are we today? Where do we want to be and where are we today? And what are those steps we need to take? And building that around the citizens, around the customer or the citizen.

In our business we are really passionate about that, I’m really passionate about that. So you can’t just talk about it. You have to be seen to be doing it, making changes for the customer, being seen to be much more agile. But firstly, focusing on the design thinking that says “Here’s the end game. Here’s where we are today and here’s the road map.” And building that sort of agile thinking into everything around that citizen experience.

Tom: Thank you very much, Kerry.

Kerry: Great. Thanks Tom, it’s been great. Thank you.