Data Driven Innovation in NSW Government: Scaling the Culture Shift

In May 2017, NSW Minister for Finance, Services and Property, The Hon. Victor Dominello launched the State’s Digital Government Strategy, focusing on driving a digital, responsive and agile public sector. The strategy highlights data as one of the key priorities for digital government transformation.

With this digital transformation, comes a new digital footprint. NSW Government departments and agencies have since developed various digital applications for the community over the last decade that aims to simplify government-citizen engagement and enhance citizen experience.

As citizen information proliferates, data has become an enabler for executives to explore the customer insights. Government organisations are now also being tasked to manage, protect and use it to enhance the data-driven decision-making process.

This was the challenge posed to 12 CxOs from the NSW Government sector at a recent roundtable discussion “CxO Insights: Harnessing Data to Respond to NSW’s Innovation Agenda”.

Conversations at the luncheon centred around this role of data in meeting the NSW Government’s innovation agenda with representatives from 10 agencies and departments present for the discussion.

Jeremy Moon, the Director of the Data Analytics Centre at the NSW Department of Finances, Services, and Innovation provided opening remarks, with the commentary also made by Nick Hoskins, the Country Manager for Australia and New Zealand at Cloudera.

Data-Driven Outcomes:

For the Government CxO, data-driven decision making ultimately creates a platform for greater business enablement. Jeremy commenced the discussion by looking at what data-driven insights can achieve.

“[Data] brings things to the forefront of the organisation. When incorporated into regular processes it can drive some very powerful incremental change.”

Jeremy spoke about the challenge of institutionalising data-driven innovation from the perspective of the data analytics centre, identifying the need for people to drive an incremental change culture in order to understand what you can do now to benefit your customer.

“It can’t be a one size fits all strategy; it needs to be a tailored approach that appreciates the outcomes of certain agencies and departments. In doing this you can change the culture of how data is being used, so it informs the entire decision making process and has a real impact.”

Jeremy spoke of examples in other industries, where businesses are using what they know about their customer experience, and applying it very quickly to enhance the customer journey. This being most prevalent for the ecommerce sector, which he noted is quite industrious with regards to its use of data.

Do Data Silos Exist?

This was an interesting point of discussion from the group and provided some encouraging insights, whilst also pointing out challenges.

From a process point of view, the group concluded that data silos exist. However it is not just because of legacy systems and fragmented operations, it is also due in large part to the emergence of data as a major asset. Everyone is using it, but not one person is controlling it.

“Culturally executives want to be using data to make informed decisions, Government employees are so community focused that they are in search of data insights as it makes their job easier,” one attendee noted.

“The problem is that there is not one custodian of the data. Everyone wants to use it, but no one wants to own it.”

Several executives noted there is more care for data in the Government sector compared to the private sector. However this challenge of ownership and management has spawned from the interest in data insights. Without defining this, future data-driven innovation will be impacted.

“In order to continue to create “moments” for CxOs to engage with real data insights, agencies need to really consider the who and the how to data management. Laying the right cultural and technical foundations is critical,” Nick Hoskins of Cloudera commented.

The Burgeoning Challenge of Security

With the aforementioned change of culture towards data, government departments have never been more exposed in terms of digital security risk.

As CxOs, the group acknowledged the importance of taking cyber security seriously, particularly with the recent high-profile cases of Equifax and Facebook.

“I think there is a major appreciation for the risk that cyber threats pose to Government. We just need to make sure that as our digital footprints grow, so do our abilities to drive a secure culture.”

The group emphasised the need for data to be incorporated into this discussion, both from a management perspective, as well as to provide a sound base for potential cyber analytics and threats assessment.

“And once this is in place, not only does it provide a responsive platform base, it can become the starting point to machine learning and analytics security capabilities.”

From a NSW Government perspective, representatives from the security fraternity were present in the discussions, and outlined the need for agencies and departments to marry culture and data-driven insights in order to take a progressive stance on the increasing challenge of digital security.

Conclusion

The forum provided a platform for Government CxOs to discuss data as a fundamental business asset as when leveraged successfully, insights inform better policies and services, enabling smart, simple and seamless decision-making.

This is a positive reflection on both the NSW Government and the executives themselves as organisations see a new breed of CxO; one which is keen to get the right cut-through and be outcomes driven for the community.

When looking at responding to an innovation agenda, there is no doubt that the right approach has been taken from in order to drive change. The next set of challenges will look at how it can be scaled, and responding to increasing demand for data-driven innovation.

“If there is a tool to get me the outcome I want to make it easier for my customer then I am already bought in. This is why I value data so much and am excited about the outcomes we can achieve with it,” an attendee concluded.

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